Stay-over success outweighs cruise decline

| 23/10/2019 | 64 Comments
Cayman News Service

(CNS): A close look at the statistics published by the Department of Tourism indicates that the drop in cruise number arrivals this year is far outweighed by the significant increase in overnight guests, who spend much more than cruisers and distribute that spend more widely across the entire tourism sector. The numbers show that at the end of August, stay-over visitors were up over 10% while cruise visitors had fallen by just 6%, meaning that Cayman’s tourism sector is still on track for the best year ever.

The fall in cruise numbers is largely due to the fact that many of the destinations that were made inaccessible to ships following hurricanes Irma and Marie in 2017 have opened for business once again. But this drop has had no significant economic impact on tourism related businesses, as the money being spent by overnight guests has more than replaced the missing cash from cruisers last year.

Overnight guests outweigh the spend by well over three to one.

The cruise decline would need to reach record breaking lows before the overall money being earned in tourism would begin to noticeably decline. Last year stay-over guests spent over $680 million in the Cayman Islands, while four times as many cruises spent just $200 million.

The loss to the economy of three cruise passengers can be made up and surpassed by just one overnight guest each day, and given the successful work of the tourism marketing department, there is no sign of things slowing down.

As a result, one of the major criticisms that has been pointed at government by the opponents of the cruise pier project has been its potentially negative effect on the overnight market and the misleading claims that huge parts of the tourism sector are dependent only on cruise visitors.

Every single person working in tourism can cater to guests who arrive in Cayman by either ship or plane. Taxi drivers and tour operators are not confined to ferry one or the other; they have access to all guests. Restaurants serve everyone, and those who fly into George Town are just as welcome at all of Cayman’s attractions as those who sail in.

As government continues to justify the proposal for the controversial cruise berthing facility as a way of saving some 4,000 jobs the premier, the tourism minister and others supporting the project fail to tell the public that none of these individuals are working exclusively in cruise tourism. All these workers also serve the wants and desires of stay-over tourists and many of them are work permit holders.

Tourism jobs are just that: they are not exclusively dependent on cruise tourists and government is misleading the public by the way they present the numbers.

But the point is that excessive cruise tourism numbers can have a negative impact on overnight guests but not vice versa. Increasing visitors to unmanageable numbers leads to overcrowding and pressure on Grand Cayman’s limited attractions and infrastructure, so the proposed project risks killing off businesses that provide a service to both sets of tourists.

The loss of harbour front watersports operators and other small businesses will be compounded by the loss of 20 acres of pristine coral reef that boosts these waterfront operators, as well as the bars where thirsty divers go after their underwater adventures.

The increase in cruise passenger numbers and the impact that will have on overnight guest attractions may also put off visitors who have no desire to fight their way through the kind of crowds they came to Cayman to get away from.

The risk posed to Cayman’s environment, the threat to overnight visitor business and the pressure on our roads and wider infrastructure, not to mention the price tag, which will come from the public purse in the long run, for what appears to be no real benefit to anyone other than a handful of downtown merchants is why many people have major concerns about the project.

It’s hard to see why government is willing to take such a significant risk for so little gain.

And it is this that has created further opposition to the project. Much of the general public simply doesn’t trust government’s justifications. Many people believe that the real reason for the government’s steadfast support, at apparently any cost, remains hidden. Whatever that hidden agenda is, it is very unlikely to be revealed before Cayman gets to vote on this project in the country’s first people-initiated referendum — if ever.

Voters will therefore continue to speculate on the real reason why this government appears to be taking its enormous gamble with Cayman’s tourism product and exactly what happens when it loses.


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Comments (64)

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  1. alaw says:

    I will not try to enter this battle, of dollars and cents war.
    my simple opinion is that the PROPER WAY to embark and disembark a ship is by using a
    PIER!

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  2. Anonymous says:

    Our government spends over fifteen million dollars annually on attracting stay over visitors who benefit the big hotels and foreign owned water sports companies with only crumbs left for the locals. BUILD THE PORT.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    This article misses the point entirely. Everyone knows that stay over contributes more to our economy. The point is the cruise tourism is a legitimate part of our tourism sector and employs many persons. You cannot just have a stayover tourism country. Many cruisers admit that their first introducing to the destination is via a cruise when they return as stayover visitors. That conversion is worth a lot. Setting stayover against cruise is just a ploy to strengthen the argument to the port. The cruise sector remains a good contributor to jobs and is a means for many small businesses to make a living.

    And don’t underestimate the negative environmental impact of having 10 more hotels on seven mile beach to accommodate stayover visitors.

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    • Anonymous says:

      I am a GT merchant. If we build the port I will definitely make more money, I will also definitely employ more people. Probably two new full timers. The question is, is that gain worth the possible impact. I am not sure of the answer.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Wow a whole two full timers. If there are 50 of your stores we might get 100 jobs. Prosperity here we come

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        • Anonymous says:

          with probably over half being expats, don’t forget

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        • Anonymous says:

          What a ridiculous response. Somebody actually says something practical and real-life and you respond with an asinine comment, similar to so many of the others from the camplaigners. Acting ridiculous won’t help your cause, but it does highlight your true colors.

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          • Anonymous says:

            How’s this for a response – how many jobs are we going to lose for glass-bottom boats, submarines, diving, snorkelling, and underwater photography as a result of the port? Is it going to be outweighed by 100 minimum wage retail clerks pushing t-shirts? This debate is too serious to be nice about it my friend. The case for the port is destructive and in bad faith. Personal profit is not part of the calculus and anyone who argues in favour of the port on the basis they will be personally enriched and somehow their well-being enures to the rest of us is contemptible. It doesn’t matter if a few hundred people have fatter pocketbooks if thousands lose an hour or two of productivity every day in traffic or whole businesses go bust because their product has been destroyed. This is basic stuff and anyone who argues otherwise is an idiot who deserves to be treated as such. My colour is Hog Sty Bay blue.

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      • Anonymous says:

        All parties say this will not result in more visitors. This is BS.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    And while we’re all arguing about the dock we’re losing focus on the wider picture. Trump is finished in the USA and his successor is very likely to continue Obama’s moves to resume relations with Cuba. We’ve had a temporary reprieve here but that’s all it is. When Cuba opens up we’re FUBAR. Get used to that idea.

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    • BeaumontZodecloun says:

      The Cayman Islands offer a unique experience that is different from any other islands. The same can be said for most places. Those that want what we have will always continue to come here, and in spite of your U.S.-centric view, we will never be FUBAR, unless we do it to ourselves.

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      • Anonymous says:

        6:39 We are already doing it to ourselves – name me one truly unique experience on Grand Cayman? We haven’t even got the kind of quality resorts you find in Jamaica. We’re creating an over-developed, over-crowded, congested, dirty mess here. If people want that they can go to plenty of other places in this region and get it for a third of the cost of staying here.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Big Beau, Sorry to say that Grand Cayman is no longer a unique experience. We have basically become South Miami Beach, Caribbean. Sad but true.

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        • Anonymous says:

          Cayman is becoming all cement and too expensive to justify as a vacation spot. Trips are becoming more spaced out as the island doesn’t hold the same charm as years passed.

    • Anonymous says:

      Have you been to Cuba? They are currently light years away from being a destination that that the Americans would spend money on. Poor infrastructure, dreadful food, accommodation is poor. Maybe in 10 or 15 years when they’ve had some REAL investment. To be fair, it isn’t their fault that the country is a dog’s dinner.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Interesting thoughts re Cuba. But I think the comment from 8:31 misses the point. What will be increasing “unique” to U.S. travelers is that they can actually go to Cuba. That is a competitive advantage for Cuba regardless of the state of their infrastructure. There’s tremendous pent up demand there. That demand is going somewhere.

        If CI doesn’t upgrade the ports, how are we going to draw in that demand in the future when we’re signalling we don’t want to change?

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      • Anonymous says:

        Lots and LOTS of people go to Cuba. LOTS. Planes full of them. The beaches rival Cayman.

        You’re are deluding yourself if you think people aren’t flocking there. They are.

        Lots of people enjoy the all inclusive experience and that is something that is missing in Cayman.

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        • Anonymous says:

          2:02 From a news story in January –

          ‘Cuba attracted a record number of visitors in 2018. 4.75million people set foot on the island and this rise in tourism was up almost 60% from four years ago. It was partly due to more cruise ship arrivals.’

          Note the last sentence.

          And this is despite Trump shutting down access to Cuba by US citizens!

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        • Anonymous says:

          @2:02

          The reason we don’t have AI (all inclusive) is because a major European tour operator tried to introduce it about 10 years ago and was told by DoT that’s not how we do things here.

          DoT seem to still regard AI as the low end, tacky package holiday market when it’s actually evolved into a high quality option at very affordable prices. Take Sandals as one example – absolutely superb and way better than anything we have here.

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          • Anonymous says:

            I am well aware of the stance of the DOT. Unfortunately, they are so short sighted that the only hotel they do think is “worthwhile” for the ever so titsy Cayman brand is the Ritz.

            The people who work at the DOT have no business working for the DOT. They think the product of Cayman is leaps and bounds above what the competition is offering and, sadly, that’s just not the truth anymore.

            Tourism is Cayman is stagnant. If anyone cares to listen, the guy for Verdant said the EXACT same thing. Alas, n o b o d y is listening……..

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      • Anonymous says:

        8:31 There’s a real world out there and you need to visit it. This isn’t the run down Cold War communist era tourism that I experienced in the Soviet Union years ago, it’s state of the art hotels and resorts run as joint ventures with Canadian and European companies. The country may still be communist but tourism there is 100% capitalist.

        In September 2008 my ex and I were booked on a two week vacation in Cuba just before they were hit by two Hurricanes. The resort we were due to go to was extensively damaged so they moved us to the Blau Varadero – it was superb. I doubt there’s one hotel on Grand Cayman that could approach the quality of service we got there. I have friends in the UK who have been taking their main annual vacation in Cuba for the past 15 years or more because it’s quality at a sensible price.

        When American tourists get the chance to find out just how good Cuba is there are a lot of destinations in this region that are going to be hurting.

      • Vg112 says:

        Worst place I have ever visited. Security accessing hotel safe while out of the hotel.
        I’ve been to al Qurna, and Basra Iraq. Both had better food and felt more welcoming

    • Lomart says:

      Cuba has been “opening up” for a very long time!

  5. Anonymous says:

    The funny/sad irony is that the high-end liners, that specialize in carrying the per-qualified luxury goods crowd, specifically avoid the Cayman Islands because of the high-volume hassles that are geared to cater to the all-you-can-drink/eat plebes that don’t spend a dollar in port.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    Even if stay over produces more money, most of that does not benefit caymanians. Plain and simple more caymanians make money in cruise guests.

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    • Anonymous says:

      That’s nonsense. The cruise ships work hard to keep as much of the cruisers’ money on board the ship. There’s little upside to more cruise visitation for expats or visitors. Plus, how does the Dart pipedream of making Grand Cayman a haven for zillionaires mesh with larger hordes of cruisers?

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      • Anonymous says:

        The new 50 storey building to be announced next year is certainly aimed at zillionaires not cruisers.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Please ohh please come up with some solid evidence of that. If you can you may be taken more seriously.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Are you nuts? Only crap shop owners and a few bars benefit from cruisers, as most of them get food and booze on the cruise ship. Stayover, the love gets felt by all, restaurant, bars, better quality shops, tourist attractions, dives, grocery shops, markets…I bet I can guess who you work for!! Bring the facts on…hard facts..going to be tough, because none support your argument.

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    • SSM345 says:

      What do stay-over guests do when they come here then; stay in their rooms the whole time?

      Not sure how a stay-over guest who comes here for a week and does local activities everyday would be trumped to spend less and not benefit Caymanians ten-fold by a cruise-visitor who comes here that might do 1 activity with the time they have, if they can afford it……

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    • Anonymous says:

      So you think Stay-over guests who are by definition here longer use tours, attractions and taxis less than the people here for a couple of hours

      Yes a good portion of stay-over spending is in hotels or other housing
      But unless you think stay-over guests are locked in their rooms all day , your comment makes absolutely no sense

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    • Anonymous says:

      1:01 Simple math here – cruise ships sell trips to their passengers for $80-$90 and pay us $18-$20 for them. That’s barely covering costs. I know local businesses who are often forced by their cruise ship agreements to run trips at a loss on quiet days. Stayovers pay full price. You are talking b*****ks.

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      • Anonymous says:

        This is one of the biggest reasons to keep the cruise lines at arms length. Everyone should be under no illusion that they will “own” the port. Until we (government) pay off the money that financed the build (provided by the cruise lines) they will call the shots. They will continually work their way into the cruise guests pockets elbowing the local operators aside. 10 years after the dock is built they will own a number of excursions and employ their own expats to do the tours.

      • Anonymous says:

        Sort of true but flawed. I know for a fact that when a cruise is interested in selling a land based tour the price they sell for it’s what the operator wants net plus the ship mark up not the other way round. If you want $50 per head then the ship has to decide if it can sell it for more.

        But the end of the day cruise ship business is still a crappy pain in back side…

  7. Anonymous says:

    Stayover rules! Dump the cruise lines altogether, filthy polluters…

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  8. Anonymous says:

    In the real world, the global shipyard order book does not have SuperGT cruise ships for future construction destined for Western Caribbean region. Liners have to consult with public shareholders, book a spot at one of the handful of yards with capacity to build and launch, and then lay their deposit money down. This is a transparent process taking years of lead time covered by hundreds of research analysts and Financial journalists. There aren’t necessarily any more passengers magically coming with a Port, and we, the Cayman people, have already been obligated by Unity Cabinet to make up the current 20% shortfall in near-term arrival numbers, which could fall further now that Eastern Caribbean is coming back on stream. This is a terrible flawed deal from every angle, orchestrated by career profligate shills, with a history of bad judgment, expensive avoidable settlements, and poor value deal making, and who may or may not be getting paid on the side (having gone out of their way to defy enactment of SIPL Constitutional disclosures).

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  9. Anonymous says:

    Gotta laugh at those who put all their chips on stayover – you realise the further development and damage exclusively catering to this sector does? you think 7 mile will be safe, think again. will be nuthin but highrise hotels. fools. look at every other country in the caribbean, they got beautiful ports. george town is embarassing. but yes, build another 5 star resort should be ready right around the time the stock market tanks.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Can’t fix stupid, but please do tell me how 400,000 stayover tourists could do as much damage as 2m cruisers, all of whom use filthy polluting buses or taxis to go everywhere create huge traffic issues, and not spending much money with it are better? Particularly as most of the time those 400,000 are resting on the beach or in their hotels or using the better restaurants or shops. Does the propaganda sheet you write from tell you how to deal with the truth?

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    • BeaumontZodecloun says:

      I am sorry if you don’t like it here; doesn’t give you the right to denigrate locals (Caymanians and those who DO like it here). You sound bitter. Maybe it’s time you went home, where (apparently) more people think like you do.

      Many of us want to slow down development. “Prosperity” doesn’t always mean more money in the kitty — sometimes it means a better quality of life for those who have skin in the game.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Big Beau, After you have lived here for many years one cannot help but be fed up with Caymanian entitlement. You are probably too blind to see it all around you.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    Let me preface my statement, I am NOT for the port. That being said, what if, just what IF, stay over success DOES NOT outweigh the cruise decline?

    I have often questioned the magical number the DOT puts out.

    When I see the lies the government spews in regard to the port, and on some months look around Cayman, I think there is no way the numbers for stay over tourism has gone up. I just don’t. You can launch a cannon through Camana Bay

    Prices are sky high to stay for a week in Cayman. SKY HIGH for what?

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    • Anonymous says:

      I own a couple of rental properties on SMB, the year on year growth of the occupancy of my condo and the others in the buildings we own are truly amazing, so the numbers in my opinion are correct. The reason prices are so high is supply and demand, you cannot get hotel rooms because large groups book them out, therefore they can charge what they want for the remainder. And for what you ask, have a look around and compare this to any other Island, we live in a first world paradise with very low crime when compared to elsewhere with direct flights to a number of major cities. Just because Camana Bay is empty you think its down? I would not be heading there when i come from some cold part of the USA, i would be lying on the beach enjoying the sun.
      What i can tell you is that the feedback i have from guests is that our airport is a joke and they cannot understand why we have invested so much only to have to walk onto the tarmac in the hot sun or the rain, i am concerned we are at risk of other islands getting better before we fix our problems with airports, dump and traffic.

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      • Anonymous says:

        So people take a step down from staying in a hotel where their room is cleaned each day, bed made, fresh towels, garbage removed, room service, dishes cleaned, likely a restaurant and shops on site to staying at your place…. woopee.

        Cayman is no longer a high end destination!! It’s an AirBnB rental market for people like you trying to make a quick buck.

        People are staying in people’s worn out, 80s condos, with crappy sunk in beds and old towels, and getting ripped off without the amenities.

        Ps. Crime is sky rocketing, just like the dump, hunger, and poverty. The gap between the haves and have nots is heart breaking. Hopefully, you get out enough to understand.

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        • Anonymous says:

          Actually the ones i own are not 80’s condos and are more expensive than hotels per night. The rooms are cleaned on a daily basis etc etc, people just like more space and are prepared to pay $600-1200 per night. Maybe before attacking my comment you should educate yourself on the market and find out that those same people who at staying on a holiday a few times are actually the ones who end up buying in these buildings and spending $2-3m on a Condo. The buildings are employing Caymanians and there are also a number of other Caymanians like myself who own there. Crime is not sky rocketing, maybe you need to get out into the rest of the world to understand that we do live in paradise and more people on cruise ships is not the answer if you want to controls the dump and crime.

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          • Anonymous says:

            You are Caymanian so I’d expect nothing less of your opinion. Are you a realtor as well?

            Cayman is an overpriced, corrupt, human rights violating, cesspool. People, the world around, have noticed and are talking.

            When you pull your collective heads out of your bums and start taking your country problems seriously maybe opinions will change.

            From someone who has the cajones to tell you that Cayman has much bigger problems than just getting off a plane on to tarmac, traffic and a dump bigger than any building on Grand Cayman.

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        • Anonymous says:

          5:35, you sound bitter- calm down!! Air BnB’s on island are NOT all cheap poorly renovated 80’s condos with crappy beds! If you actually looked into it, they can run from $500-900 per night, depending on the size and location of them. What you fail to realize, is that this market brings more stay over guests that feel staying at the Ritz, Kimpton isn’t worth the daily resort fee plus a $1k per night price tag! They can stay at a nice home, save a very large percentage on those fees and use that money to go out to eat, go on trips etc. That is why Air BnB is so successful all over the world, not just here! Get a clue!

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          • Anonymous says:

            AirBnB started out as people renting rooms in their houses. A budget alternative to hotels.

            People started seeing AirBnB as another advertising vehicle for their FlipKey rentals, which is what you have.

            The occupancy calendars are far from full. Especially the places that are *ahem* $500 – 900/nt.

            Also, the air arrivals in Cayman are finite so you are always competing with the travel wholesalers, too.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    I think people have made up their minds already. No new arguments would change it.

    Give it a rest and let fools learn it hard way. And if the project gets NO, that means “universal forces” got into this play to protect environment from human insanity.

    P.S. Gaia Theory is a compelling new way of understanding life on our planet….we are far more than just the “Third Rock from the Sun,” ….living organisms and their inorganic surroundings have evolved together as a single living system that greatly affects the chemistry and conditions of Earth’s surface…… “Gaian system” self-regulates global temperature, atmospheric content, ocean salinity, and other factors in an “automatic” manner. Earth’s living system appears to keep conditions on our planet just right for life to persist!

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  12. Anonymous says:

    Simple economics – overnight visitors will always be more benefit to these islands than cruise shippers who stop by for 5-6 hours.

    I was over at Rum Point a while back when a group from one of the cruise ships rolled up on an island tour. They took one look at the food and drink prices and decided to leave it until they got back on the ship. They’ve got everything laid on for them there so they’re not going to dig in their pockets to pay what they clearly regard as rip off prices for it here are they?

    When the dock is built (and I suspect it will be) things are going to get even worse because passengers in the ships at the piers will then easily be able to pop back on board for food and drinks. I stayed at another popular Caribbean destination where this happens. The cruise ships arrive at the dock about 8am, passengers get off for the morning to look round or do any activities they’ve pre-booked on board then you see them all drifting back from midday on. Not only do the local shops, bars and restaurants get very little business from them but they seem to drive the stayover visitors away from anywhere that looks busy.

    It seems to me to that the choice here isn’t so much whether or not to build the dock but what kind of tourism product we want to promote in future decades because mass cruise tourism and stayover tourism are, as we could soon find out, a bit like oil and water – they don’t mix well.

    And before anyone launches into the, ‘all cruise shippers are potentially future stayovers,’ argument – In the last decade I’ve heard this repeated ad nauseam but so far nobody has
    produced any evidence that’s it’s true. If you are going post that here you better have some solid (not the ones DoT fudge) stats to back it up.

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    • Anonymous says:

      My first visit was back in 1998 and I was attracted by the “idea” of its exclusivity. I was shocked by how expensive it was but returned year after year. I avoided Georgetown at all costs if there were too many ships in port because even tourists can only handle so much before being annoyed. I don’t know how the locals do it!

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    • Anonymous says:

      We first arrived by cruise ship in 1992 and have been back as a stay over guests every year since. While we were definitely in budget mode on that first visit, as our lot has improved over the years so has our annual spend. I am sure we are not alone.

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      • Anonymous says:

        You were converted to stay over from your introduction to the island as a cruise passenger, this conversion rate is high and this is one of the benefits of the cruise sector.

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        • Anonymous says:

          You cruised here during a different time, when a cruise was an affordable luxury, not the common flyover state man’s ‘all in one’ annual
          vacation. Cayman was a different place. In 1992 there were 27,000 locals; now there are 67,000. We need our island for ourselves, and for people like you. Besides George Town in full cruise throng is an overwhelming, irritating experience that would not today make someone want to come back and see more (or even make them think there was more worth seeing).

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        • Anonymous says:

          I was also a cruise convert in early 2000 long before Ivan. I say that to say this, the island has changed drastically since my first visit. My lot in life also changed, as did my spend, but I no longer frequent Cayman each year. I sold my place there and travel there once every few years. The time in between visits is getting further apart. The sadness I feel when I see what has become of Grand Cayman is unmentionable.

          Let’s be careful when we talk about how it used to be. Cayman is no longer the Islands that time forgot. They are the islands that are RUINED.

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        • Candy says:

          Actually, government tourism data shows that 88% of stayover visitors first visited by air, only 11% first came by cruise ship.

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        • Anonymous says:

          8:32 Show us the facts and figures on that. I’ve never seen any real stats that suggest that this is anything more than a convenient myth put about by DoT.

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        • Anonymous says:

          8:32
          99.99% of cruise visitors couldn’t afford a one-week vacation here. That’s why they do the cruise trips.

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  13. Anonymous says:

    Still hearing way too many voters saying they are opposed but don’t consider their vote to count and are staying home. How can we encourage these voters?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Well that’s just plain ol’ stupidity at work here.
      And from what I understand, you can’t fix stupid.

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  14. Anonymous says:

    Thank you thank you thank CNS

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