Tourism officials aim to improve visitor experience

| 19/08/2010

(CNS): Following the news that cruise ship calls to Grand Cayman will be cut by twenty-five percent next year, the Department of Tourism has announced plans for an enhanced experience at the port. The DoT says the plan has been devised based on responses from a survey conducted among visiting passengers earlier this year. The announcement also comes as questions are being asked about the long term partnership with government and Dart to develop cruise berthing facilities. A three month MOU signed between the parties on 15 April has now expired, though government said on Thursday that the project is still on track.

In the meantime, tourism officials are implementing a plan to improve service delivery as well as the port’s physical environment. Jointly forged by the Department of Tourism, the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands and the Cayman Cruise Industry Partners, the six-month improvement project will be carried out over the rest of this year.

Following the assessment of the experience at the port by visitors who were asked to rate their experiences at certain touch point areas and the focus groups held with cruise partners, the team created an action plan to implement certain physical improvements to the downtown port area and to train cruise operators and employees at the terminals, the DoT explained.
“The recent assessment of visitor experiences at the port has provided us with valuable information that has enabled us to take the right steps to making the Cayman Islands an even more desirable destination for cruise visitors,” said Oneisha Richards, Project Manager and DoT’s Deputy Director, Tourism Product Development
Although the DoT has not revealed the results of the surveys or the focus groups, it was clear there were concerns, and the department said the plan aims to address both the concerns of local cruise tourism stakeholders and visitors.
With the reduction of calls to Cayman next year by cruise lines, there were concerns that problems with visitor experience had been instrumental in the cruise lines’ decision to drop Grand Cayman. CNS has contacted both Royal Caribbean and Carnival to ask them why they are reducing calls to the Cayman Islands and is still awaiting a response.
Most local business owners involved in the cruise tourism industry have expressed concerns about the conditions at the George Town port and the Spotts terminals, as well as a number of other issues, and have suggested some interim improvements are needed. However, their main concern is the pressing need to begin work on the cruise berthing facilities.
Stefan Baraud recently told CNS that the talks between government and Dart regarding the cruise berthing project were still on track, and although there are now some significant changes to the original model, DECCO (Dart’s construction company) is still very much on board with the project, which will be a private finance initiative.
With no news, however, on when the project will actually break ground and an ultimate completion date, the DoT is pressing on with programmes for taxi and tour operators and information providers at the port with the hope of improving the visitor experience at the terminals as they are now.
The department said Janet Holness, a member of DoT’s PRIDE team, will be focusing on operations at the terminals and will deliver training to cruise operators working there. Cruise Officer Melisa Ebanks will also provide operators with the information and skills to encourage visitors to return to the island.
 “The Cayman Islands has been known for its warmth and its welcoming hospitality services and the PRIDE programme is aimed at taking this to a higher level by implementing service standards and ensuring everyone knows, shares and show PRIDE to continue our success in the tourism industry,” Richards added.
At the beginning of the new fiscal year, the PRIDE programme focused on assisting operators at the ports to improve their service delivery, officials from DoT said. The first phase of the initiative was to apply the enhancement process to the cruise ports, with the second phase directed at the airports. At the start of this programme, all public transport drivers operating at seaports and airports received customer service training. To date, over 400 drivers have received PRIDE training and additional training is being developed to fully immerse these operators in service enhancement.
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  1. Anon says:

    Great, but a day late and a dollar short for many of us down town merchants. We’ll be lucky to make to season, let alone the months or years it will take to get this, and the dock project, off the ground. With the drastic increases in operating costs during a recession we are just squeezed too tight.  We are not competing with other Cayman businesses, we are competing with Mexico, Jamaica, Honduras.  WE CANNOT RAISE OUR PRICES.  Rather, we have had to cut our margins to stay competitive, yet see our fixed costs go through the roof. Now a 26% decrease in ships (and only good ships)! Way to help out small businesses.  

    BUT, this is a good thing… for those business that will come after us. But those of us who have invested our life savings, fought for years for tourism improvements and a proper berthing facility, we will be asking you if "you want fries with that."

  2. Macman says:

    Now I am going to be very popular with this idea especially with the people who work in central George Town and hate to walk more than 10 yards to work!

    Make Central George Town a pedestrian only zone permanently!

    Traffic does not have to drive along Harbour Drive between Shedden Rd. and Fort St. so why not close it off permanently…..ooops I forgot that means those poor old taxi drivers will have to walk a little way to solicit their customers.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Wow, tourism in GC looks like it would be easy to fix. Lower air fares! Have local entertainment and food ! Clean up the roadways! All 3 would be beneficial for the economy, too. With a better economy, the taxi drivers may be smiling???

  4. Anonymous says:

    WHY would anyone pay over 1,000 dollars per person to go to a caribbean island and then sit and eat at Wendy’s, BK etc. when we could be eating local food that we can not eat at home? That is why when we travel we also search out local music, entertainment and sporting events.

    Cayman could really "do it up" with nightly shows and events up and downWest Bay Rd. and GT. One should be able to "bar hop" and only hear local talent or reggae, calypso, soca etc. GT should have weekly events that show off the local foods and arts. Bring out the locals and the tourists. Crowds of people enjoying the night. GT right now is like a ghost town. What ever happened to the steel drum youth band that used to play at Treasure Island? (just as an example)

    Sporting events should be published so tourists can go watch cricket and football games. We always have to search these activities out, but if they were published more people would be able to enjoy what happens in the local culture.

    Family , sunset, party cruises to get people out on the water at night. Lots of them with a theme so people can dance off their dinners. Keep it affordable and the boats would be filled.

    Those are just a few ideas.



    • Anonymous says:

      We need to be offering a more cultural experience. Some years back the Cultural Foundation used to offer a ‘Cafe Cayman’ in George Town and it was very popular with tourists and locals alike. It’s a pity that cannot be restored. I have enquired about it and hear that there is not enough funding to do this. There should also be more ‘points of interest’, e.g. Miss Lassie’s house which is a literal art gallery. We need to showcase the historic points and tell the stories behind them.  Much more needs to be done with Pedro Castle.  A lot of money was injected there and it is a world class facility but not seen or experienced as fully as it could be.  The answer to Cayman’s tourism problem is simply to go back to basics.  We have tried to make it too sophisticated and that’s not what the majority is looking for.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Could it have to do with the inflated price they are charging for the dump called Boatswains Beach?

    Or perhaps the experience of standing amongst  hundreds of other tourists in pee water at Stingray City?

    Perhaps they don’t want to be stuck in traffic when they only have a few hours in Cayman to begin with?

    Maybe they don’t consider shopping in one of the 50 jewelry stores in town a unique experience?

    Perhaps they don’t want to be faced with American franchise restaurants eating lousy tasting food they can have any old day back home?

    When people go to the Islands, they want to see and feel white sandy clean beaches, snorkel in blue waters filled with ocean life, chill out under palm trees (which there are none along 7 Mile Beach), have a great local culiniary experience and do something ……..well different.


    • Ron Kipp says:

      You do make some valid points.

      But, Stingray City/Sandbar is very well liked and a good deal.

      We should continue to improve our product. Every business that I know that is successful over the long term does just that.

      Ron Kipp

  6. Anonymous says:

    You can start with those rude taxi drivers who dress like thugs, drive like maniacs and charge whatever they want.  Why is it so difficult to get the government to make them install meters.  They always rip people off.  I’m a local and I know what I’m talking about.  I would hate to know what they charge tourists.  Dept. of Tourism:  Please start with the meters first!

  7. peter milburn says:

    I wanted to comment on our stay over business as it stands right now.For too long I have heard that during the winter most caribbean islands raise their prices.Again I ask the question.Why??We need to think outside the box and do something different from those other islands.This past winter if memory serves me correctly many of our hotels and especially condos were not as fully occupied as they could be.Could it be the VERY high prices charged by our airlines and higher prices by condos etc.??This is almost Sept and NOW is the time to roll back prices especially airlines and fill those planes up with passengers that travel here to enjoy the weather etc.This is something that CITA and our Tourism Dept should be putting in place NOW not next year right NOW.These prices should stay in effect throught the middle of Dec and then only allow a small rise in fares.CAL controls the prices as far as I am aware so include the other airlines and do an across the board promotion for these islands.What harm can it do?If you pick up a Miami Herald you will see specials to most islands in the Caribbean that A/A fly to but I have never seen Cayman mentioned at any time.I wonder why that is?Come on guys try something new and get it done asap.Dont drag your feet like most govt depts lets try to get something done quickly for a change.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why just lower prices out of Miami? Lower prices out of the cold Northeast. We would be on those planes the minute the snow fllies if the price was right. If the price was really right we would be down a couple times during the winter.

      Think of it……"Instead of dusting off your car, dust off your feet" Pictures of a blizzard or the sand on the beach….now, that wasn’t very creative, but something like that running across our television set/internet and a good price would definently get us booking!

      *** and although it may be 80’s today, the snow will be here before we know it!

  8. peter milburn says:

    Where as I am certainly in favour of cruise tourism I cannot but wonder how in the devil are we going to handle 4 ships alongside a dock especially if they can have upwards of 4-6000 passengers. (Not to mention crew)G/Town is crazy enough as it is now with tenders bringing passengers ashore.At least they dont all come at the same time but can you imagine the chaos with the mega ships in town.You know that they will not be the only ships allowed either as the other smaller ones will be anchored further north of where they are now.How they will handle the arriving ships while the new port is being built and cargo ships as well should prove to be very interesting and I certainly wish the powers that be luck with this one.(This new port could also save the destruction of East End as the dock can still be utilised at night like it has done for the past few years.Just spend the extra money to strengthen the dock now rather than trying to do it later.


             I hear some of the bigger jewellry stores complaining about the lack of business due to the pulling out of certain ships that have passengers that seemingly spend more money but what really makes you all think that bigger ships with more visitors will mean more money.More confusion,congestion and more complaining from folks who have to jostle around elbow to elbow with the hoards that will supposedly fill these stores.GT is way to small to handle this influx of people and getting this sorted out will prove to be a nightmare.I have said this many times before that GT MUST be traffic free at least along harbour drive.Half the time with a few ships in the walking passengers block the roads and cross everywhere possible so stopping ALL traffic on this road will certainly help the situation.I understand that there are now plans to include a Mega Yacht area in the new plans for the GT Port.This is both good news and bad.Bad in the fact that it will add even more to the confusion of GT but good in the fact that MAYBE and I emphasise the word MAYBE it might save any channel digging in the North Sound area.Unfortunately my gut feeling tells me that this will only be a temporary fix to the Mega Yacht situation as with the new Ritz Development and  Caymana Bay in full swing I doubt very much that the channels will be put on hold for too long.

      As for the Environmental Impact Study I understand that this has already been done.My how that was done so quickly amazes me.(NOT) but I certainly hope that it will be made public so that comments can be allowed BEFORE this whole thing starts.Is this a case of the company doing the work being paid to say what our Govt wants to hear???I wonder if the study showed that it would be dangerous to go through with this project would our Govt back down and not do it maybe on such a large scale??I would certainly doubt that very much.

    • Anon says:

      Dear Mr. Milburn, Whilst I appreciate your long tenure on this island, I can only think by your comments that you have only passing knowledge of the cruise industry, especially as it impacts George Town merchants.  It is not just that Liberty of the Seas (or the Oasis,or Genesis Class) is a larger ship than the Carnival Valor that is causing us down town merchants distress.  Liberty is a Royal Caribbean ship, it is a more expensive ship, it caters to a higher end cruiser (as do the Celebrity and Princess lines that have cut their arrivals).  Additionally Liberty is a ship that visits our little rock on Thursday.  What difference does that make you say, Well, Thursday ships spend more then Tuesday ships.  Cruisers visit many islands, and tend not to spend as much on their earlier stops.  When it gets to the end of their cruise they realise that they want something to remember their trip, give to the dog sitter, give to their mother who is home watching the kids, ect, ect, ect.  and hence they buy something here.  Losing 1 Thursday ship is like losing 2 Tuesday ships.  Losing one Princess ship is like losing 3 Carnival Ships.

      I agree that having Harbour Drive be a pedestrian mall would be a very big positive.  A comment I hear frequently (especially from older guests) is that the walk from Royal Watler to central George Town is difficult for them.  A free, or nominal cost, shuttle (ala Coral Gables) would be a great draw.  It could go from the terminal to Smiths Cove, and from the terminal to SMB. 

      Just my two cents.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Who would want to be a cruise ship tourist here? Never mind berthing facilities, George Town is a dump, "attractions" like Hell and the Pirate Caves are a joke and you are treated like walking dollar signs by surly shop keepers and taxi drivers who seem to think they are doing the tourists a favour.

    • Anonymous says:

      Agreed.  Has anyone walked along SMB lately? There is one rubbish bin at cemetery beach which is overflowing and probably won’t be emptied anytime soon. As you walk along there is trash everywhere, which gets particularly worse as you get close to Tiki House beach. Have a look  at the old beach bar in front of the Courtyard Marriott, it looks awful. DUMP!

      • Anonymous says:

        I’d like to say this writer is correct regarding trash bins, there simply are very few and those that exist are overflowing with trash. I truly believe that people would dispose of their litter in a responsible manner if only there were containers available. Take a walk along West Bay Road and see all the take out food containers thrown down on the ground. Some good civic lessons are needed. Of course these bins would need to be emptied on a daily basis.

        Imagine being a tourist getting off a cruise ship at Spotts……. need I say more? It rather resembles a Prisoner of War Camp! What must they think when they experience this landing…. and then get to face the taxi drivers….

        • Anonymous says:

          I’ve got to second your comments on the Spotts issue.  I travel on the bus by there every day and when the cruise ships are there, I often wonder what goes through the visitors minds when they first step off their ships and onto Cayman soil because it is a bit of a mess to say the least, and far from welcoming.  I also agree about the taxi drivers.  There happens to be a bus stop right outside Spotts and sometimes the tourists wait there to wave down a bus – only for both the tourists and the bus driver to be subjected to rude and insulting words from the taxi drivers, who try to tell the bus drivers they’re not supposed to stop there.  I was shocked and horrified to witness this the first time, but have continued to witness it on numerous occasions over the years.  Some of the tourists when they get on the bus have told me they won’t use taxis because they have discovered they are being double and triple charged for their journies.  On several occasions I have been told that what is a standard charge for a journey, is being charged to individual passenger in the taxi, i.e. what would normally be a $13 journey, is being charged to each and every passenger so, say, the driver has 4 passengers, he charges $13 x 4 instead of $13 total for the journey.  Disgusting.

    • Anon says:

      I am a George Town merchant, and saddly I have to agree with most of your post. (Only we are always nice to the visitors, no manner how rude they are to us)!

      It is very discouraging that their is little or no local culture in our capital.  With the closure of the craft market restaurant, there is no where (in walking distance) where a cruise ship guest can try local food. Sure there are places in fair proximity to the harbour… if you had a car or there was decent public transit – but neither of those are options for the average cruise guest. I feel so bad when visitors ask where they should have a bite of local cuisine.  I have no where to send them. 

      Additionally with the recent increases in fees some longstanding local shops that sell other then high end jewellery have been forced to close their doors for good. Far Away Places (whilst a Kirk Freeport store) offered unique products. Although I was no big fan of Caribbean Emporium, they have packed up shop too.  As have other merchants – Silver City, RIchards Black Coral, the list goes on. 

      The only local culture is the guy selling coconuts from a shopping cart he nicked from Foster’s.  On a 4 cruise ship day I see 40 or 50 customers with coconuts in my store.  It just goes to show that local (or perceived local) sells.  I am sure someone will find a reason to stop him from selling his little coconuts shortly.  And then we will be back to our sanitized version of paradise.

  10. Anonymous says:

    If you want to improve visitors experience when they land in GCM and indeed, life in general for those that work in central George Town, I can’t help but think it would be a good investment to George Town a proper vibrant and bustling city/town centre, with  shopping malls and clothes stores, coffee and sandwich shops, delicatessen’s, a pleasant parkland area for all to sit in and relax (what is currently the temporary bus depot where the Tower Building used to be – return the Bus Depot to its rightful home by the Library).

    The tourism market that exists largely ignores the town centre area.

    The key to creating a tourism friendly atmosphere is people.  In its simplest form it means pedestrians and retail / foodand beverage patrons.

    The activities that tourists are most likely to engage in include the following:

    1. Shopping
    2. Walking
    3. Eating and Drinking
    4. Swimming

    I live here, and typical comments I hear from visitors are:

    (1) George Town is more a commercial banking center than anything else. The harbor area is small and there isn’t much to it. No shopping to speak of, a few restaurants, not the high point of the island by any means from the tourist’s point of view.  You have to travel all over the island to get to stores and attractions.  There’s not much to do in central GT at all.

    (2) Food is very expensive and Shopping is not very good.   Mostly T-shirt and trinket stores. Not much else to see or do unless you travel out of town which we were reluctant to do, as we didn’t want to miss our cruise ship departure. 

    And in truth, I have to agree.  Without travelling out of GT, there really isn’t much to see or do.




    • Anonymous says:

      Its me, (Thu, 08/19/2010 – 14:36) again, and I been thinking some more:

      GT is the (second) capital of Grand Cayman, but its a bit of a ghost town: in the day with workers going about their business and flocks of cruise ship tourists wandering vacantly around.  Perhaps we could make GT the place to be – a bustling capital as I suggested above, and I love many of the other similar suggestions here.  But how about making a regular feature of Cayman a fish fry with music in the centre of GT every friday night until the early hours?  By fish fry the idea is promote the variety of fresh caught local fish, by allowing folks to set up numerous stores selling a variety of different foods, drinks, crafts, etc.  Set up tables and chairs so people can sit down and eat, and just chill at the end of the week.  Tourists too could enjoy the experience without having to travel too far from their accommodations.  Perhaps the public bus transport dept could be persuaded to run an hourly bus service to all districts until the early hours too, so that everyone, with a car or not, can come out and enjoy an evening/night out – eat, drink, dance and mingle without having to go to too much expense.  

      But I haven’t finished.  Bodden Town is (an almost forgotten – if not – certainly neglected) part of the country’s heritage.  Whilst I commend recent efforts on the public beach, its not enough.  BT desperately needs a facelift, and its perpetual flooding problems in and around Cumber Ave, Belford, and the Bypass generally need fixing permanently.  Restore the original capital of the country so that the tour buses make it a stop on their agenda, instead of passing straight through. 

      OK, maybe I’m dreaming, maybe its  unrealistic, but its food for thought – I see so much promise and too much waste… I really think something like this would be good for all, along with many of the other suggestions made here in this topic. 

      CNS: If you give yourself a username it would make conversations easier to follow..

  11. Anonymous says:

    Clean up the Crime and Gain back the Tourism.

    Put the Police at the Night Clubs and Shopping areas. Patrol the Gas Stations. Quik Fix.

    • Anonymous says:

      As a tourist I would love to be able to drive to GT and have an area around the pier where I could sit and listen to local entertainment at night, poke around a few shops, maybe have an ice cream or cold drink and just relax and watch the people walking by. I believe local entertainment is lacking in GC. I do not come to an island to listen to rock or techno music and that is what is playing in a lot of the bars. I would love to see the area with palm trees and flowers. Local food! How about one night a week the locals have an art/talent night on the pier with local food and music?

      • Anonymous says:

         Finally, from the mouth of a Tourist, they come for LOCAL entertainment and food, not Burger King /  Wendy’s / KFC….But so see what Cayman is like,…. or used to be, Go Green GO Back to LOCAL, not mini america…

      • Anonymous says:

        Thank you, I’ve been raising this exact same point for years.  People come here to escape from their home countries for a taste of the caribbean, not a reminder of what its like back home.  When I first came here to work years ago it was local music and culture I was most excited about being around, but I found it distinctly lacking – all I could find was bars staffed by ex pats and playing loud rock music.  I finally found Paradise and Calico Jacks (we Europeans love beach bars) but again same problem… and when I asked at Calico Jacks if they could stop playing the loud rock music and put on some reggae I was told "we don’t have any – nobody wants to listen to that".  Well, actually, I did, and most of the folks I know who come here to visit would also rather hear reggae/calypso/soca when sitting at a bar in Cayman then the rock music we constantly have battering our ears over the radio, in bars and everywhere we go back home.

      • Anonymous says:

        YES!!! Thank you!  Many of us have been saying the same thing for a long time and nobody listens! Bring on the reggae, soca, calypso in George Town and let’s dance, have some fun and bring in some earnings for local businesses!!  Those who don’t like it can go to ‘Camana Town’!

      • Anonymous says:

        Yes I agree, wouldn’t it be great. That would be something. In fact get the cars and buses and taxis out of that area of George Town, make it a walking district, boulevards and palm trees and local food, Caribbean music, benches to sit and take in the flavour……. have a drink, some finger food, the sad part is, this will never happen.

    • Anonymous says:

      Lower airfare/hotel prices to get us there. Once we are there we will spend in your restaurants, spas, water sports, rental cars,  etc. If we can’t afford to get there- we can’t spend our money.

      Currently (as a solo tourist) my 5 day trip over the NY holiday is pricing out at $2400. plus and that is not counting any food. I can not afford that or justify it (and believe me, that is NOT staying at the Ritz). I was just there in July and air and hotel was $825(for 6 days). Hmmm…..that is quite a jump, even for over the holiday period. If the price was lower….I would be booked!!