Passenger pressure too great to make dock work

| 26/10/2015 | 54 Comments
Cayman News Service

Stingray City, Grand Cayman

(CNS): A local businessman working in the tourist sector has warned that the passenger numbers required to finance the cruise dock will put the remaining attractions under immense pressure. The General Manager of Atlantis Submarines, Bud Johnson, said that Grand Cayman had a limited capacity to cope with passenger numbers from cruise ships on a daily basis. Given that the ships will still not come in significant numbers in the summer months, with or without the piers, during the winter months Cayman will be very overcrowded and he warned that this will drive overnight tourists away.

Johnson, whose business serves both cruise and overnight visitors, told a crowd of demonstrators at a recent peaceful protest against the development of a cruise dock that the cost and impact of the piers goes well beyond the immediate dredging losses, the indirect reef destruction during construction and the price tag for the project, as he warned there would be further economic and environmental fallout.

Johnson illustrated the point with the example of Cozumel in Mexico, where the overnight tourism market has virtually collapsed because of overcrowding from cruise tourism and he warned of similar problems in Cayman.

In order to cover the costs of the project, future passenger numbers would need to be around 2.3 million per year. He said those arrivals would be concentrated in the winter months, when Cayman would need around 13,000 people in port five days a week, and he told people to come into town on 11 November, when five ships are scheduled to be in port, to get to grips with what life would be like for the entire winter and the detrimental impact it would have on stay-over tourism business.

Johnson said that the public beaches and attractions like Stingray City would be pushed to breaking point as the damage to the harbour reefs would increase the pressure on the the island’s remaining attractions.

Furthermore, government was about to spend hundreds of millions of dollars pursuing the lowest spending type of tourists, he noted.

“This is a business plan doomed to failure,” he said, as he revealed research from documents in the public domain that indicated over 75% of the money spent in Cayman was spent by overnight guests. “If we overcrowd the destination, those people will find somewhere else to go,” he said.

He challenged the concept that without piers the Cayman Islands cannot retain cruise ship business. Grand Cayman already attracts 1.6 million passengers per year without a dock because of the many unique attractions, in particular the ability to get off a ship and get into the water.

Johnson also raised concerns about the 7.5 acres of upland development that government has remained quiet about, pointing out that if the cruise lines finance the port it will have shops on it and defeat the purpose. He said there were numerous other solutions, including shore-based security clearance and improved tendering, or a single pier that is pushed much further out.

A much more comprehensive national tourism plan was required, Johnson said, before embarking on cruise tourism development in order to assess the risk. The proposed project threat was far too risky, he said, as he stressed the significant environmental and other costs without any guaranteed benefits.

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Category: development, Local News

Comments (54)

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  1. Crab Claw says:

    I’d assume once the Oais class ships start coming they will be replacing the current 2k and 4k ships arriving currently, so if you have an average of 8 ships per day as currently with 3.5k passengers and crews that is roughly 28k of passengers released on the island in one day and we have managed and survived with that before, I think the record amount of ships was twelve for one day.
    The Oais ships we are proposing to dock four it seem or about 18k passengers and I’d assume there would be anchorage for another two to four regular size ships as we currently use now, that would be another 14k passengers for a total of 32k passenger for one day, that we should be able to manage most sport stadiums are 50k plus theses days.
    Tendering would still have to continue on heavy days so that isn’t going to go away, actually there is some lines that don’t even use the on island tenders they use their own tender boats from the ship.
    Last but not least why isn’t more people not stating that the pier fingers jutting out that is causing such a fuss will be built on pilings and isn’t even going out the full length of the ships, there will be piling islands built as tie off points to minimize the damage to the environment, plus the coral in that area has been destroyed for years from cruise anchorage, and fighting over a shipwreck that is a pile of rubble is sort of senseless as well.
    As for the CIG financing part of the pier offer $1000.00 shares to finance it in the form of bonds allowing local investors wanting to the option to buy a share and to receive a dividend from the docking fees.
    Sorry all you spoilt none cruise industry workers that seem to have no idea where your wages come from, and are making such a holy stink against it, wake up those cruise passengers pays for a lot of what happens on this island in custom fees docking fees and indirect incomes to companies that do business on the island that had the island not been receiving those fees, things would have been even more expensive around here.
    If you have a issue with traffic on cruise ship days push for better public transport that is what is messing up the traffic flow on this island more than anything else.
    I’ve always wanted to see a round the island mono rail or something such implemented, if our politicians had any sense every one of those tax cooperation signings, should have included a benefit to the island, a rail system, an airport, a dock and so on it should have went, we are frying our golden egg and getting nothing in return.

    • Anonymous says:

      ‘an average of 8 ships per day as currently’ – there’s no need to read the above post beyond the second line to know its wrong on the most basic level.

  2. Christopher Ebanks says:

    People are pro-dock because they feel it will lead to the ever elusive “paradise” promised by the greased palm politicians who will have no problem throwing us under the bus if it means their pockets and bank accounts are full but what those same people, who follow so blindly, have forgotten or just don’t realise is that they already had paradise but they let it slip through their fingers and in the end it has become nothing more that a failed utopia.

    “Porcus carnifex rex in terra”

  3. Anonymous says:

    The passengers are going to die of heat walking 1/4 mile ashore on that long concrete pier in the blazing hot sun. They are going to wish for the cool breeze of the shaded tenders.

    • Anonymous says:

      If they haven’t already died from 40 years of sanding in hours of the tender lines they will be fine with the 5 min walk on the dock

  4. Anonymous says:

    Something that eludes people is 11 million. 11 million per year. One company makes that amount of money and hasn’t done anything for passenger comfort in over 40 years. Yet not one of you gives a dam? You say well lets improve the tenders? They haven’t done anything unless they had to ( no cover for rain or sun)
    Let’s see what we would achieve if we build a dock? The 11 million that they receive would pay for the dock. The staff that work for them could work on the dock. A tremendous win-win for them . Because dock workers make a ridiculous amount of money .
    XXXXXXX
    Why are people driving through GT? Go around through the bypass. Well ,anyway it is going to close, get use to it.
    Is anyone watching how fast property is selling houses from South Sound to 7 mile beach?
    What ,you people think they riding a bus? Vela alone has sold 60 apts in their first phase. Thats 60 more cars on the road they are not high school graduates dummy. Every time a new project is made available, bam more cars. Who are these people where are they working? How are they able to get to work? Where are the roads? Gridlock? Not by cruise ship fools . People are going the opposite way Taxis and Busses are going North and East from GT. You coming West and South .
    Well ,hotels and condo on 7 mile beach have a choice go to Camana Bay .You all say they spend more then cruisers ,PROVE IT.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Seeing that the deputy premier just confirmed that the mega ships will never use tenders or visit tender ports I think we need to take a good look at the future. Either we build piers and keep cruise tourism or stay the same and wither away.

    • Anonymous says:

      wrong choices, Build pier, majority of people in Cayman suffer to pay for it, a few GT vendors and their family benefit and the expats they employ to sell. Meanwhile hotels become empty during peak season, gov loses out on accommodation taxes, Cayman Airways needs greater subsidies and shops anywhere but GT lose money.

      Or keep to smaller boutique ships and spend the 150 million attracting more Stay over tourism, where the real money is.

      So build a dock, the environment loses, the people of Cayman loses, the government loses, But a couple of political connected families greatly benefit.

    • Percy says:

      I think withering away is the best choice.

    • Anonymous says:

      There are many successful, preferred ports on all cruise routes that cater to ‘regular’ or smaller ships. Actually they compete very well without the ‘CATTLE RUNS’. Why are we not considering trying to be one of the ‘preferred’ ports, offering a more positive experience!

    • WorriedSick says:

      Stop letting these people bully and frighten you. Think. We don’t want mega ships for heaven sake. We can’t cope with that many visitors. We don’t have the infrastructure. It will be ruination for this island, everything that once attracted visitors will be destroyed. My child’s heritage is being taken away. Stop the greed. Get back to what Cayman was about, get back to quality service, get back to uniqueness. Think Monte Carlo …. not Carnival Island

  6. Anonymous says:

    Mr Johnson and his followers all need some accountants to do their numbers because their calculations are not realistic or even valid. Stop the doom and gloom Cayman for it is time to convert all your negative energy into positive energy and then we may gets some things done in this country.

    • Anonymous says:

      Mr. Johnson is EXACTLY RIGHT!!! Just wait and see what Cayman will be like when the stay-over visitors abandon us for a more peaceful, undeveloped destination…..and the Caribbean is full of them or they can invest in coastal Fl.

      • Anonymous says:

        Only threat to us is Cuba. Now mind you Cuba I’d not a threat to cruise but stayover. …..just you watch

  7. Anonymous says:

    Let them buy watches!!!!!!

  8. Anonymous says:

    pier money would be much better spent on improving/attracting stayover tourism…..we could also improve the cruise system as it stands….and make it the best in the world….
    the vague hope of the mega ships being our saviour is pure pie in the sky……suppported religiously by 60-70 pro-port bots…..

  9. We cannot; repeat, cannot prepare for the future while clinging to the relicts of the past. Our current cruise tourism injects some $157 million into the economy; employing some 3547 persons while supporting some $67million in salary generation.
    We will become “common” and obsolete if we remain in the backwaters of time.

    • WorriedSick says:

      Why do you think Cuba will be such an attraction? Because they stayed modern? Or because they stayed in the “backwaters of time” – why do you think people go on vacation? To get away from modernisation and its exhausting effect

  10. Ron says:

    Mr Johnson thank you. We need more people like you and ms Georgette in the LA. You might have a degree but common sense prevails. Thank you.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Has any one been on a cruise lately? has anyone gone to Jamaica or any of the other island in the caribbean ? It is like walking thru a jungle with all of the vendors forcing things down your throat. Cayman is heading down the same path if this dock is in. I have worked in the tourism industry for 6 years and EVERY guest i have had has asked when is the best day to go to GT to avoid cruise passengers. I am now looking at going back to school because unfortunately the tourism industry will go down hill real fast!! HMMM maybe a weed grower? come on Suckoo get it done !!!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      They’re not the only ones. I used to hate trying to get into work on cruise ship days too – no matter how early you set off to avoid it, you would still be late for work and still would have to queue most of the way back to Walkers Road/South Church Street and beyond most days,

  12. Anonymous says:

    I totally disagree with Bud Johnson comments being a water sports operator. On Monday’s, Tuesday’s, Friday’s and Saturdays……attractions such as Stingray City are hardly crowded as only one or two cruise are in port. On many occasions there are no ships in port on these particular days.

    • Anonymous says:

      His point is that to support the $ for the pier, the number of cruise ships in port will have to increase to 5 a day, every day in the winter months.

      How in the world anyone can think the government, especially THIS government will implement a successful financial plan to build a pier that costs upward of $100 million has their head in the sand or has never looked beyond the borders of our island. There is no way, simply no way the pier will be good for Cayman financially. I’m not even worried about the environmental impact – just the financial numbers are enough to not build it. It makes sooooo little sense if anyone looks, reads, learns and thinks for themselves beyond a few businesses downtown and local construction managers.

      • Prognosticator says:

        Truer words were never spoken, Anonymous 2:41. Anyone with average intelligence can see that the great flood of money just isn’t going to happen. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence knows that we cannot handle the crowds that megaships bring. Anyone with or without intelligence knows what a conglomerated mess there is in George Town when several smaller cruise ships arrive on the same day. Ships with 6000 tourists will produce gridlock and misery for Caymanians and tourists.

  13. Anonymous says:

    For the past ten years I have been advising my guests to avoid Georgetown if there are more than 4 cruise ships in port. The real opportunity for growth, especially financial, and ecologically, is in stay over tourism. Go for this high end market vs the cruise market, and even the dock’s proponents will be saying their mea culpas. It is a travesty that a small but vocal group is holding this government hostage over this very obvious decision.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Cayman is full of doom and gloom “experts”, and Bud seems to be the latest in the long line. Only in Cayman would you have people opposing tourism growth on the basis of not having enough options for the tourists on shore. In the real world, that is called “opportunity”. The cruise port, if completed, will open up a world of opportunity for new business ventures for entrepreneurs and jobs for anyone that really wants to work. Demand for services will result in those services being provided by someone and new services mean new job opportunities.

    • Anonymous says:

      New business ventures do not exist when that already existing, which is all we have to offer by the way, is already at full capacity. All those cruise shippers that do not go to Sandbar or SMB end up in the water snorkeling in GT around the very places that will be destroyed by this project. You only need to look in said water when the current ships are in port.

      Are you proposing a zip line from the Dump as an alternative? Skydiving and bungee jumping is out of the question due to air traffic laws, otherwise that would have be done decades ago.

      Building a dock before any alternative activities are even considered possible is the stupidest thing I have heard barring this very project itself.

      Nothing is being considered outside of just building this dock and that itself is effing scary.

      The big difference here between us and you is that you are not considering the big picture, you just think that if a dock is built that our problems will be fixed, and that in itself couldn’t be farther from the truth.

  15. Anonymous says:

    PPM need to listen to people like Bud instead of greedy merchants who are running this government for their own interests to the detriment of the majority.

    • Anonymous says:

      Lets just take a moment to look at which members of the PPM have interests in the ‘greedy merchants’ and you’ll see that the govt and greedy merchants are the same.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’d bet my bottom dollar you have no clue what you are talking about. You seem quite okay that the three main objectors to the pier are all closely associated with one of the tender company owners. Those are the already lined pockets being protected, not the environment.

    • Rhett says:

      The ‘Move East’ Campaign is in full motion! With this dock, GOOD BYE to 7 Mile! Overnight tourists have attractions more than ever now to get them out of the congestion, and head E. Soon come other major projects, Ironwood for example. Are not overnight guests more important than cruisers? Hello Dart. How many cruisers go to Camana Bay? And purchase? All shops are empty when I am there. Bud has great insight and foresight.

      • Anonymous says:

        Other than Rum Point and Morritts, all I hear from all the tourists headed east is how disgustingly dirty the beaches all are and how saddening this is for such a potentially beautiful island. Perhaps the government could employ somebody to clean them up?

  16. Anonymous says:

    Everyone knows that we are talking about a 20% increase in cruise numbers over several years right? We aren’t talking about doubling the current numbers overnight.
    Most of the non stingray city and 7 mile beach tours shut down in the summer because only the pre-booked tours have enough time to get the passengers where they need to go.
    The independent smaller local guys need dock so that the passengers that don’t pre-book have enough time to get off the ship and get to where they need to go.
    George Town roads need re-working with or without a cruise dock.
    George Town itself needs work and investment with or without a cruise dock.
    The current situation just doesn’t work anymore. Staying the same will kill the whole thing off.

    • Anonymous says:

      How does everyone know? Pro port baloney with no back up from PWC? In fact didn’t PWC say there was no case for a port? Oh dear, convenient to forget when you are trying to get your hand in the till.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’m guessing you are an expert too? Your words are weak with and with no basis. The facts are quite opposite and support the pier very much so. The only things that are against the piers are pure speculation and worse than worst case scenarios.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Well said Mr. Johnson

  18. Anonymous says:

    Something Bud is doing that greatly confuses the issues is talking about Cozumel like as Cayman is the same. Cozumel gets 3.5 million cruise passengers a year, almost double what Cayman get.

    Cozumel also gets the shorter, cheaper cruise itineraries in great numbers and that is the huge difference compared to Cayman. Cayman is mainly on the longer cruise itineraries and doesn’t get any of those 3-4 day cheap trips.

    • Anonymous says:

      Wait, doesn’t the Oasis Class go to Cozumel? Ah, that is right, the cheaper pod people.

    • Anonymous says:

      i think that is Bud’s point. Building the pier helps the cruise ship companies run Oasis class ships that will turn Cayman even more into a low cost-high volume destination like Cozumel.
      Cayman is small with limited attractions. Either build the dock or build the airport because we wont need both. I think it is more sensible, with limited space and attractions to focus on high-value, low volume stayover tourists vs t-shirt buying Oasis-class passengers.

  19. JustSayin says:

    Finally some sensible commentary in this debate. Cayman will struggle to manage over 2million cruise passengers. Thank you Bud.

    If Grand Cayman’s tourism product and physical infrastructure cannot accommodate these numbers what is the real justification for going forward with the CBF. The formula being deployed is quantity over quality. There is currently NO plan or substance to any National Development Plan, Tourism Management Plan, National Conservation Plan so the government has to proceed with caution before it commits to a project that will dramatically alter George Town and Grand Cayman.

    Unfortunately, there is no cohesion tying any of the big ideas together in order to make any of these proposed projects viable especially since there is no cost benefit analysis completed to support or justify the proposals. If Cayman cannot afford these projects they should not mortgage our futures.

    • Anonymous says:

      All one has to do is look at the cruise ship passenger numbers over the last 30 years. The growth has been incredible. Surely these merchants have made a fortune in that time and good for them.

      On the other hand stay over visitors have been flat for many years. It seems we have the formula backwards.

      As a Caymanian let me say it here. The tourists are not coming here to see us!!! I say that simply on the basis that hardly any of us work in the tourism industry anymore. So if tourists don’t even get to meet us Caymanians – it cant be us they are coming here to see. No they are coming here for the crystal clear water, snorkeling our reefs and the white sand beaches.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Johnson is a very bright guy. I would contend that the larger issue for Mexican destinations such as Cozumel is much more affected by the crime, or perceived crime in Mexico in general. The building of a cruise dock gives passengers much more time ashore and less time waiting in line for the tenders so they are able to get to other tour areas. More potential for development towards the East as an attraction is a possibility with docks. Right now snorkeling in town or stingray city tours are the only option because of limited time.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I could not agree more with Mr Johnson’s comments. I would add that local commuters will also suffer if so many downtown roads are pedestrianized. Government should realise that George Town roads are just about at maximum capacity already and a few cosmetic road improvements will not avoid gridlock. Take a good look at the results of your upcoming traffic survey. Take a good look at the tour bus “snakes” of 100 passengers or more crossing South Church St and holding up traffic for as long as 10 minutes as they walk to their buses parked behind Bayside.
    Residents have rights and they should not be seriously infringed just to line the pockets of a few already rich local merchants.

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