(CNS): The Ministry of Tourism is seeking assistance in developing a new long-term cruise strategy as well as a new policy on public transport and its connection to the cruise industry. A request for proposals from consultants with “a track record and proven experience in assessing the cruise tourism and public transport sectors” has been opened, and according to the document, the government wants to “reimagine the country’s cruise industry. and move to a more sustainable volume of visitors.
Last week, Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan revealed that the Port of George Town will reopen to cruise ships for the first time in two years. They were banned after the coronavirus arrived in the Cayman Islands via a cruise ship on March 21, 2020.
In what is described as a phased approach, around 75,000 passengers are expected to stop over in Grand Cayman during the first four-week period, after which the situation will be reassessed. That’s about half the number of passengers who arrived in the four weeks before the cruise ship ban. Nevertheless, as much as 11,600 passengers could arrive on three ships on April 6.
This has drawn widespread criticism, fueled by a growing backlash against the cruise industry as the public begins to seriously question what benefits this side of tourism has for the wider community. In recent years, the darker side of the cruise industry has been exposed, from its exploitation of workers to its appalling environmental record.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the susceptibility of cruise ships to contagious disease outbreaks, adding to concerns about the detrimental impact of cruise tourism on Cayman Islands.
Since its benefits are limited to a limited number of stakeholders compared to the benefits of overnight tourism, many Caymanians lobbied to rethink and there was hope that the pandemic not only offered a break to the cruise, but an end. .
However, Bryan recently told CNS that the idea of a permanent end was not a realistic option, but that a long-term review and gradual transition to a new approach was needed. Since taking office as Minister of Tourism, Bryan has pledged to review policy and open a public debate about the future of cruise tourism.
In the application document, the ministry said, “It is imperative to reshape the current approach to focus on quality, sustainably manage capacity, passenger traffic flow and impact, as well as design travel experiences. new and innovative destination”.
He said he was looking to devise a strategy that would reduce cruise tourism to “sustainable volume while providing a fair opportunity for cruise industry partners to successfully restore operations.”
The ministry also wants to increase the earning power of Cayman Islands businesses that cater to the cruise industry and “design a negotiation strategy approach to enable operators to maximize every contract opportunity.” Successful consultants will be asked to provide “authentic destination experiences to diversify tour offerings”.
An important element for many people will be the number of passengers and ships. Public opinion was clear during the successful campaign against a cruise pier, when more than 25% of voters signed the petition for a referendum. But campaigners had to force the PPM government to appear in court to prevent it from going ahead with the project before the vote even took place.
But as it is now clear that there is very little public support for cruise docking, even the PPM is now backing the call for a new approach to cruise tourism and fewer arrivals. Opposition Leader Roy McTaggart recently said Cayman “should have a national discussion about where we want to go” on cruise tourism before the ship ban is lifted.
The request for proposals shows that the government is considering a significant change in the sector.
Tourism as a whole accounts for about 20% of the country’s GDP and Cayman “is not overly reliant on tourism,” the ministry said in the document. Although the figure has not been broken down to distinguish between cruise passengers and overnight passengers, it is well known that the money generated by an overnight visitor exceeds that of a cruise passenger from three against one.
In 2018, inbound passengers spent more than $680 million in the Cayman Islands, while four times as many cruise ships spent just $200 million. However, officials said most players in the cruise industry are Caymanian-owned businesses that affect a large community of family members and employees.
The ministry said it wants to end cruise line underpricing of local operators by establishing a base pricing model for beach breaks, island tours and attraction stops popular.
The tender also outlines expectations for public transport proposals, which the ministry says are related to the cruise industry. Consultants are to present their proposal for a review and assessment of the current public bus system and recommendations on a “transition strategy to a national government run public bus system” or a community entrepreneurial system.
The RFP is looking for a way to restructure elements of the current public transport system and better manage public buses alongside tourism-related transport, such as taxi, excursion, water sports and limousine services.
See the call for tenders in the CDS Library.