Jamaica’s cruise numbers have taken a hit, with a decline of 12% between the start of 2019 to June. It gets even worse: the numbers for summer are down a whopping 28%.
Blame this on the Cayman Islands which has done nothing wrong, but simply being unable to host the Oasis class of ships. This means that the Oasis of the Seas has to skip that island port. The Oasis calls on Falmouth, which is why Falmouth port is the greatest hit of all Jamaica’s ports.
Passengers are now opting for the eastern Caribbean.
What can be done to arrest this decline? Jamaica is looking to the Cayman Islands to build a port berth that will be able to accommodate the Oasis class ships. Then the western Caribbean will have its 4 stops and bring back things to normalcy, and hence Falmouth and Jamaica would rebound.
However, unlike Jamaica, it is the people of the Cayman Islands who will decide whether or not the berth is built. What’s more, they have lots of reasons to not want the project to be built. It is therefore not a certainty.
From Cayman News Service.
The vice-president of cruise shipping at the Port Authority in Jamaica, William Tatham, said the decline in passenger numbers this summer at all of Jamaica’s cruise ports was because the Oasis of the Seas was not calling on Grand Cayman, so it is losing customers.
Cruise lines plying the Western Caribbean usually call on Haiti, Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Tatham believes that because the Oasis refuses to tender and is therefore not stopping at Cayman, passengers are opting for the Eastern Caribbean, where they get four calls instead of three.
“Because the west sail was missing Grand Cayman, we saw a decline in the Oasis class,” Tathum told The Gleaner. “The good news is that Grand Cayman is very optimistic about building a new port berth to accommodate the Oasis, and Royal Caribbean has been very much saying that we will see a complete turnaround, so the numbers for Falmouth will climb right back up.” He added that the cruise lines were optimistic about Cayman building the berthing facilities.
However, the (Cayman) Elections Office has verified almost enough signatures on the Cruise Port Referendum petition to ensure a national poll, so it will be the people of the Cayman Islands that decide whether the cruise port will happen, not the cruise lines.
The conclusion by Jamaican officials that their declining cruise sector is now in the hands of the Cayman Islands’ proposed project has been met with derision here. Those opposed to the project point to the “twisted logic” as just another example of the manipulation of destinations by the cruise sector. Jamaica has been plagued with problems since it invested in piers to accommodate the desires of the industry.
On his Facebook page, opposition MLA Chris Saunders (BTW), who opposes the government’s plan to build berthing facilities here, wrote: “So let me get this straight… Jamaica built piers expecting to have more cruise passengers… and now that they aren’t getting the passengers they expected… they need piers to be built in Cayman… to help the piers they built in Jamaica. Folks.. you can’t make this up. All I can say is that misery really loves company.”
Cruise ship destinations have increasingly found that promises made by cruise companies are not fulfilled, or are experiencing other problems, such as a decreasing share of the fees for shore excursion sold on ships actually going to the tour operators, as well as pollution from the ships at the ports of call.
One of the main issues for Cayman is the environmental destruction that will be caused by the proposed project and the significant loss of coral the dredging and work will cause. Other major causes for concerns include the impact on small businesses currently serving the tourism sector, from bars on the harbour front to the submarine tours, as well as the negative effects on the wider and far more lucrative overnight sector.
Source: Cayman News Service.
Hence we have a situation where the future success of the Falmouth port and indeed the Jamaica cruise industry hinges on the Cayman Islands. To make it worse, it will not be a government decision as was the case with Jamaica. As a result, Jamaica’s fate will be in the hands of the Cayman people.
The country has been basking in increased visitor arrivals over the past few years.
Jamaica set another record for overall visitor arrivals in 2018, according to the country’s Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett. Then, the island welcomed 4.31 million combined cruise and stayover visitors. That represented the second year in a row that Jamaica had more than 4.3 million visitors in a single year,” Bartlett said.
That included an 8.6 percent increase in tourism earnings, rising from $3 billion USD to $3.3 billion USD in 2017. Source.
Will the Caymanians decide to give the cruise industry its way? If not, Jamaica’s projection for continued increases in cruise ship arrivals over the next few years may just be a pipedream.