Operator warns mass cruise is major threat

| 26/11/2019 | 61 Comments
Cayman News Service
Troy Leacock

(CNS): A Caymanian watersports operator who runs six boats in the North Sound has spoken out about the growing threat that mass cruise tourism is already posing to his and other businesses. Troy Leacock has become a leading advocate in the movement against the port and appeared as a guest speaker at the CPR meeting in West Bay on Monday. The businessman warned that even the Stingrays at Cayman’s most popular attraction are being driven away by mass tourism.

Although Leacock, the grandson of a cruise ship captain, is the owner of Crazy Crab tours, exactly the type of business that government claims it is building the piers for he oulined the reasons for his opposition to the cruise port. He pointed to the fact that a “cruise dollar is not the same as an overnight dollar”, as he explained the economics of cruise and stayover tourism.

“I could not be any more against this project,” he said.

The West Bayer explained that he runs around 2,000 excursions a year but cruise visitors account for just 20% of his customers, and that is similar for other Cayman operators. Leacock said that the bulk of his business is just like the economic take for the country as a whole, with some 80% of the people who book his boats being overnight visitors and the remaining business coming from cruise ships.

He warned that Stingray City is becoming dangerous due to overcrowding and that the rays are now staying away until the hoards have gone. Leacock said he believes the Cayman Islands already has a serious problem with mass cruise tourism, and warned that this could kill the much more lucrative overnight guest market, and it was not hard to see why.

“We are on the precipice and about to make the most serious mistake we have ever made as a nation by destroying the very essence of what brings people to our island,” he said.

Leacock said chasing the much less lucrative and low value cruise dollar would lead to mass tourism, destroying attractions like Stingray City, and would eventually undermine the success in overnight tourism numbers. He compared the low value cruise dollar to a Canadian dollar, as he explained the economics of cruise visitor spending to stay-over guest spending.

He pointed out that the bulk of the money spent by cruisers goes on imported retail goods, so a large part of that dollar goes elsewhere. In contrast, overnight guest spend much more on services and trips, where much more of the cash remains and circulates in the local economy.

Warning that Cayman was developing a reputation among guests for being overcrowded, he said overnight visitors are checking schedules to see how many cruise ships are in George Town and will not book trips to Stingray City on days when there are too many ships in.

“Mass tourism is mad tourism,” he said. “We have got to step back from the edge of this cliff or we will destroy our tourism for short term gain. Don’t believe the propaganda.”

Urging people to join him in voting ‘no’, Leacock spoke passionately and articulately about the false promises being made that he believes will destroy, not grow, Cayman business, as he pointed out that people are underestimating the awful impact that overcrowded attractions have on visitors.

See Leacock’s full speech

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Category: development, Local News, Politics

Comments (61)

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  1. Pollock says:

    As an individual who has cruised into Georgetown as well as having stayed on the island, I hardily concur. My wife and I stopped on a cruise about 1-1/2 years ago and said never again. There were too many people in town looking only for souvenirs or getting wasted. We decided to go to Severn Mile Beach for the day and had a devil of a time; and as such, left to return to the ship early. Also, I noticed too many snorkling trips within a short distance from town and the ships. On the day we were in, there were 4 ships and I was told that as many as 7 sometimes arrive. In the long run, an excessive number of tourists will diminish the desirability of the island for residents, tourists who stay for a period as well as cruisers.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Leacock for 2021…West Bay…

  3. Anonymous says:

    And just like guy Harvey, Troy is good enough an expert to speak his mind and opinion on what he thinks matters for the Cayman Islands as with anyone else. So your right, we are paying attention ! Go back under your rock now troll.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I am very impressed with Bernie’s actions.
    What needs to happen now is for Tara and Eugene to grow a pair and follow him.

  5. Leann says:

    I visited Stingray City last September for the first time. It did have quite a few boats but I really enjoyed it. We were on a cruise. The prices in the Cayman Islands are much higher than the United States so of course I am not paying the high prices when we can get out food on the ship we have already paid for. No disrespect just unaffordable. The Caymans are so beautiful!

    • Anonymous says:

      9:56 Im glad you enjoyed you visit but this is a prime example of why we shouldn’t build the port. I respect that you want to save money but if every cruise shipper can just walk right on back to the ship for food our local restaurants and bars will suffer.Cayman is expensive but our product is good. You get what you pay for in life.

  6. Circles says:


    NOw this is Powerful, passiOnate, accuRate & HonesT.

    Thanks for your contributions, Troy. Keep fighting the good fight.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I live in GT but west bay is home and will always be my home! West Bay can sure do better than they are doing now with elected folks. I would love to see a ticket of Troy Leacock, Velma Powery, Dwene Ebanks and Carlon Powery or Bernie Bush for West Bay. They are all intelligent, passionate about west bay and Caymanians in general and who I believe would fight to make our lives better. I would risk it all to campaign for fresh blood like them for my sweet west bay.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Can we please have more details of the cruise ship captain you refer too?
    To other commentators he doesn’t say his grandfather was Caymanian!

    • Charles Glidden says:

      His grandfather was Capt.Charles Glidden.

    • Anonymous says:

      To the best of my knowledge the cruise ship captain to whom Troy was referring was Capt. Charles Glidden, Sr., a Caymanian. Can someone please clarify this, if I am wrong.

    • Anonymous says:

      Irrelevant! Can’t change history. Pointing fingers is beating a dead horse.
      Change the future for ourselves and posterity. Elect those who are dedicated to ameliorating the future not who are dedicated to plumping their own pockets and egos.
      Everyone now and to come will profit and benefit, and we will fulfilll our stewardship!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Weren’t there regulations put in place that banned commercial vessels on Sundays at the sandbar?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Saw the video, hits all the right points and very well done.

  11. Anonymous says:

    replace Bernie with Leacock 2021….or the Captain…..or Bushy…might as well throw in Tara too….this is what I meant when I mentioned that West Bay has political talent outside the regular pool…

  12. Anonymous says:

    As an expat .. who lives in the EAST … please #VOTENO because Traffic coming from the EAST will be bedlam during the construction, when all ships will have to dock at Spotts

  13. Anonymous says:

    I have worked in the Watersports industry on Grand Cayman for 15 years and I agree 100% with Mr. Leacock. The dock will lead to the exploitation of the WHOLE island to the cost of overnight visitors and residents. The cruise shippers dont spend any money on the island and the cruise ships pay ridiculously low prices to operators, whilst marking up the cost by huge margins when they sell the trip to their passengers. This results in over crowded boat trips, on boats that are un-sea-worthy and with boat crews that are not adequately trained. The popular watersports areas, beaches and our roads cannot cope with anymore people and are slowly being destroyed by unregulated overuse.

  14. "This is my home. I live here" says:

    “This is my home. I live here”.
    Signed: stingrays, corals and Caymanians

  15. Anonymous says:

    The government should listen to their people…research the issues that Venice now have with mass cruise tourism…

  16. Anonymous says:

    Doesn’t anyone remember the year when, during peak season, we had between 9 to 11 ships in??
    That was about 12-15 years ago. Town was chaos. Now THAT is mass tourism.

    • Anonymous says:

      The human pollution of mass cruise tourism will be the new normal if the referendum doesn’t stop the port. Vote no.

    • Terri Winston says:

      It’s still chaos when the streets and sidewalks get too crowded. I don’t go out on those days. We have reached the point where the tourists will not like it either…….. and won’t come back or recommend the Caymans to their friends.

    • Anonymous says:

      12-15 years ago I was working on the waterfront. I remember how difficult it was to tear through the throng of visitors to get around town to do business for my company. It was crazy then and more crazy now. The traffic has increased probably ten-fold since then and Harbour hasn’t grown an inch. So yeas, it is much worse. Thanks for pointing that out.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Guys, it may be time to stop all low end cruise tourism. Yes, jobs would be lost, but all locals affected could easily be accommodated within the stay-over tourism market, which would be strengthened. We need to aim upscale, and stay upscale. Mass market minimum wage opportunities will ultimately destroy us. They are not sustainable past the first generation.

    • Anonymous says:

      Oh wow, I can stop doing business with Cruise ships and work in a hotel. How much are they paying now? Less than CI$6 per hour. Only Ritz has large tips and only for the season. I can eat anywhere in Cayman because I don’t mind paying extra. But If I had a choice like the passengers do I wouldn’t buy at any of the restaurants in town. That includes liquor too. They’re too greedy. How can EATS’ still be low price for breakfast and dinner? How come the STAY OVER tourists wait in a line outside to eat?

      I see tourists taking the free shuttle ride to and fro to see the Turtles. I believe we have the same customers the difference is the taxis on the dock don’t offer the same service as taxis on the street. All taxis in the port run as shuttles and tour busses. I’ve tried for many years to get it changed. Businesses make more money because of volume.

      A 40 ft boat going to stingray city can make $700 for a two hour trip if he does that twice a day $1400 five days a week $7000. Thats a small boat on charter and thats gross. You got to pay for your Captain and a mate plus squid and fuel. But when one or two ships come in there will be some without a trip. We need more volume we need bigger ships. There are 278 watersports license and more coming. Cause Caymanians don’t want to work for a hotel. Taxis can average $1000-1500 per week.

      One to two ships, half can go somewhere else, Airport or hotels. But it depends on the time. Tourists need taxis to Airport, restaurants mostly. Specific times, you have to see long hours and be closer to the front of the line to have a good day. Cruise ships guarantee your day. Just four ships per day is what we NEED.

      I believe if Government could control the licenses and as a older person retires a new person could come in. Maybe allow the retiree to hire a person to drive their bus or taxi without all the paper work. Cause as it is now a person with a license to drive for company A needs to reapply to drive for company B.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Well Done National Trust- now where are our CAYMANIAN lawyers to assist?

    Remember dear civil servants- you will be vilified if you stay home as a yess vote.

    To all registered voters please
    Please mail in your ballot if you are scared to go to your polling stations

    Your born and bred right to own and live in paradise is being threatened by greedy politicians- we know better?

    In Cayman Compass today:
    “I am almost certain a challenge will soon follow from the CPR group seeing as they have an open and shut case of the government abusing their power to set the date of the vote into a form of voter suppression. I am referring to the roughly 200 Caymanian voters who will be unable to participate in the vote as it currently stands, Government supporters are quick to respond with claims like “they registered too late”
    That is a wonderful framing i’d argue more akin to an outright lie if I’m being honest
    The vote was not officially announced until after the deadline to register to vote this year had already passed
    In what other country in the world is the deadline to register for a vote, before the announcement that the vote is even happening

    In order to vote this year, a potential newly registered voter would have had to have registered before July 1st, the vote was not confirmed by the elections office until the evening of September 11th
    So you think its reasonable that the cut off time for registration for the election was a full 72 days before the people even knew for a fact there would be an election?
    People are entitled to reasonable enough time to register to vote, prior to said vote once they are aware a vote is being held, but voters in this instance had no opportunity. The government has the right to set the rules for requirement for registration and the cutoff point, but I for one, would love to meet the lawyer that will get up in court and argue that 3 months, is too short notice for the elections office to update their register to include new voters. I would love to meet the lawyer who is going to argue that the government should be allowed to pick a date weeks before the new register is released allowing voters to have their say. There is no reason why in a jurisdiction this small we cannot have same day voter registration, at a minimum set the deadline for one to two weeks prior to the election date.
    The pro port side and specifically the elected government is so terrified of losing this vote that they have turned to outright voter suppression to help bolster their efforts, there is no way around the disenfranchisement of 200 Caymanians who have every right to register, and who one could reasonably argue had more than enough time to do so seeing as we were still (at the time) months before the chosen date
    Anyone arguing for this ought to be ashamed of themselves and cannot claim to care about democratic principles, and I hope CPR challenges the government on that issue alone, not to mention the lack of campaign finance limits and the other ways in which this vote is being handled outside of the norms for elections here

    • Anonymous says:

      All those lawyers that have come and done so well in Cayman should step forward and assist with this cause. Save Hog Sty Bay. Give back to our beloved Cayman.

    • Anonymous says:

      You don’t know when a by-election might be called either, doesn’t mean the registration rules should change if there is one. Register if you want the option to vote when there is a vote.

      Admittedly we’ve had fewer by-elections (I can only recall one) than referendums if we include this one.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Whilst I agree to a point with Mr Leacock we have to be very careful not to discriminate between guests of differing incomes visiting our island, – the Airtours fiasco back in the early 90’s comes to mind.

    With that said the whole discussion has become somewhat diluted beginning with the impact on the environment and now to the questionable methods and tactics with which our Government and preferred partner seems to be manipulating the outcome of the vote. Lets not alienate the cruise guest, they have shown to be a very instrumental cog in the initial ‘vote no’ initiative. Having spoken with approx 150 cruise guests to date about the tendering process none of them have a problem with it and when following up for the reason of the first question all of them absolutely support ‘environment first’ and would oppose building of the dock. The only people that appear to be pro-port are our Govt, VIIP and those that stand to make money from the project, – the cruise guests love our Island and it seems overwhelmingly they are one and the same with the ‘vote no’ group. We should do our best to maintain a service and product second to none for all guests but at the same time be mindful, question & counter the true motivation behind those willing to sell our souls to the abyss of over destruction, development and greed, – Nobody wants that including our cruise guests, they are on our side.

    • Anonymous says:

      Airtours? Sounds interesting, please recount more.

      • Anonymous says:

        Air tours was a global discount holiday group that brought a great deal of UK tourists on their own planes back in the early nineties. At the time those in the industry welcomed the influx of visitors filling previously unsold rooms, restaurant tables etc. but didn’t last long with outcry erupting that the UK low income tourist were too cheap and didn’t spend enough money. If I recall correctly the Govt at the time (Premier didn’t exist) pretty much said that particular clientele (cheap) weren’t welcome and Air-tours pulled out creating waves across the UK foreign destination market. There seems to be a similar tone manifesting with discrimination against the cruise guest dependent purely on spend habits.

    • Anonymous says:

      Fiasco? I do not remember any fiasco with Airtours. Some loud people having fun but never heard of a ‘fiasco’.

  20. Anonymous says:

    The thing about cruise lines is that they will beat you down on a price per head and keep 60% of what the passengers pay, then, if they send more passengers your way they beat you down again on the price to where you break even, or start to lose money with upkeep of boats, life jackets masks and snorkels. More tourists doesn’t always mean more income, except for the cruise lines…

  21. Anonymous says:

    I remember discussing this with several people who worked in the GT shops over a few beers at the old Seaview a good 20 years ago. The Compass had just published an editorial extolling the financial merits of mass cruise tourism and they were rubbishing it.

    I’ve no personal experience of this but what I understood was when one cruise ship was in they could expect a good day because the town wasn’t crowded. With two or three vessels in they might see more customers but no increase in business because the shops were getting too crowded. After that it rapidly reached a point where takings fell off dramatically because there were so many people on the streets they weren’t shopping, just walking by all day. The people I was talking to worked in the shops but they said they’d heard the same went for the bars and restaurants.

    There’s a point (and I suspect at times we’re already going way past it) where the number of arrivals reaches the proverbial ‘trying to squeeze a quart into a pint pot’ level. If, as seems apparent from some of the comments I’ve heard from visitors, this island is getting a reputation for mass cruise arrivals it’s not doing much good for our stayover business and that’s still where all the real money is.

    • Anonymous says:

      I just don’t understand why people think Harbour Drive is the only street in George Town? This district is aprox. six miles square. There are opportunities for more stores and restaurants. We don’t have enough PEOPLE. When Pirates week or any other festival happens I don’t hear anybody complaining? Why is that? A question that needs answering. All the bars and restaurants jam packed. How many do you think come out to see that 40,000-50,000 don’t forget tourists from the hotels and condos too. We need to have smaller stores and shops for Caymanians who want to try to business skills. Every time I drive past Eastern Avenue I see a little food place that people be waiting in line to buy. I don’t hear any complaints from the customers that they have to stand around and wait. I believe Cayman is too expensive. I don’t want Gourmet i want my plate full and I don’t want to pay $5 for a bottle of water. I believe you want the same thing too.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Flooding this Island with mass tourism with all the tragic traffic accidents is a recipe for disaster.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Vote no against the human pollution of mass cruise tourists.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Over tourism is real and other cities are struggling to find ways to manage the volume of tourists as too many can have a negative impact on the overall tourism product and quality of life for residents. You dont more tourists, you need quality tourists.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Vote no!

  26. Anonymous says:

    Truer words were never spoken.

  27. Kurt Christian says:

    Vote No

  28. Anonymous says:

    His Father was a cruise ship captain. You have to be kidding.

  29. Say it like it is says:

    Here you have it, flooding our islands with more cruisesheep is sheer madness and this is from the horse’s mouth (apologies to Mr Leacock for the phrase), a tour operator, none the less!.

  30. Anonymous says:

    He is so correct. Stringray City is a mess.

    • Anonymous says:

      True. So is Rum Point and Starfish point. Losing stingray, starfish and completely lost old island charm. royal Palms and SMB have lost their appeal. Losing overnighters too. All because of herds of cruise ship cattle everywhere. Vote No people!

      • Anonymous says:

        8:18 Last time I was at Rum Point during the daytime even the cruise shippers were bitching about the state of the place. I don’t know what they’d been told to expect but a group arrived while I was there, checked out the food and drink prices and promptly left.

    • Anonymous says:

      Unless safety measures are introduced and enforced now, there’s going to be a heck of an accident one day at Stingray City, and I should say pretty soon. Alcohol, crowds of inexperienced idiots in the water, overconfident private boaters, cynical commercial ones overcrowding their vessels; they all add up to a catastrophe waiting to happen. And I’m thinking a Philippines-ferry size catastrophe. It’ll be followed by the usual hands-wringing and finger-pointing and stable doors being slammed long after the horse has bolted. And whose fault will it be? Government’s, for doing nothing about it now in spite of warning after warning. They know there’s a problem, but they’re too idle, too complacent and too scared of upsetting the tour-operators to do anything about it.

      • Anonymous says:

        Alright chicken little.

      • Anonymous says:

        7:33 It’s already happened. Remember the Sun Runner? And there have been a few more since then. We’re just very lucky that none of these incidents has turned into a head-line grabbing tragedy. Last time I ventured out to SRC it was not only packed but boats were arriving and reversing into the crowds to drop off – live props and human flesh isn’t a good mix. You’ve also got boat crews out there who don’t speak English and aren’t trained in any rescue techniques or emergency procedures.

        13 years ago the OCC released a report entitled ‘Safety of Small Commercial Waterborne Vessels’ and what’s been done since? Just about nothing. The only boating operations that have seen any kind of safety enforcement are dive boats and their crews are already trained to levels that are streets ahead of most of the people working Stingray City.

    • Anonymous says:

      Guy Harvey suggestions were the same. Pay attention to the true experts.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’ve never quite got Guy Harvey. I love his guff about saving marine wildlife, but then I get confused by TVs in his restaurant and store showing looped footage of redneck fatsos hauling magnificent fish out of the sea and killing them, apparently all in the name of “sport”.

        Perhaps I’m missing some other, subtler, message? Maybe this is a “culling-some-for-the-good-of-others” deal or something? Please do tell.

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