Local cruise experience must improve, says expert

| 04/05/2011

(CNS): Cayman has got to get its cruise tourism product in order if it is ever to create a visitor experience that will bring back repeat visitors as high spending stay-over tourists, according to Hugh Treadwell, Executive Vice President of Active Capital Ltd, a guest speaker on a panel discussion on marketing at this year’s Cayman Islands Tourism Exchange at Camana Bay. Looking at the visitor experience when they first disembark off the cruise ships, Treadwell said that cruise tourists did not receive the best impression of the islands at this crucial initial point of contact. “People coming here on a cruise ship quickly make their decision as to whether they return as a stayover,” he warned. “They evaluate a country very quickly.” (Photo Dennie WarrenJr)

Treadwell outlined issues such as the poor quality of taxi service to cruise visitors, rogue tour guides jostling for business, the queues to re-board the ships, little protection for cruise tourists from the sun and rain, and so on, all of which made a poor first – and crucially last — impression.

He pointed out how other countries in the Caribbean such as the Bahamas and Jamaica were doing a great job in getting their own tourism product on the agenda of the cruise lines. The Cayman Islands, however, had suffered because it had not had a director of tourism for many years now and lacked a strategic plan that would move the product forward, he said.

“Five years ago the Royal Caribbean cruise line was willing to invest in a pier for the Cayman Islands. Without the pier people are losing businesses that they have built up because of the cruise tourism industry,” Treadwell added.

The comments came in the wake of the announcement that Bacchus, a restaurant of long standing in downtown George Town, had closed its doors due to a decrease in traffic of customers primarily from the cruise lines.

The 1.5 million cruise visitors to Cayman annually should be turned into potential stayover visitors, Treadwell stated, by improving the initial cruise experience. He thought that Cayman could be an innovator and beat all the competition, each of which was also trying to work out how to transform cruisers into stayover visitors.

“Designed the right way, the new cruise port could promote the story about what a great place the Cayman Islands is even before the cruise tourists come ashore,” he said. “Looking at other destinations, they aren’t that great. No-one is doing this, so far.”

Treadwell also outlined other areas of tourism that desperately needed to move forward in order to improve the tourism product as a whole, such as the need for the airport to be expanded to be able to accommodate more long haul aircraft, as well as the need for discussions on Sunday trading and legalising gambling to be revisited.

“These are critical elements that don’t ever seem to move forward too much. These issues need to be straightened out otherwise private agendas will continue to impact the business,” he warned.

Tim Adam, the Managing Director of the Cayman Islands Turtle Farm and an audience member at the panel discussion, said he was shocked to hear that Cayman had no long term strategic plan for tourism, save for the out-dated National Tourism Management Policy, originally written in 2002/2003 and revised in 2008.

“If we don’t know the destination to which we are sailing, no wind is favourable. It seems like we are neatly arranging deck chairs on the Titanic,” he said succinctly.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    It seems to me that the cruise ships have no financial interest in any of the passengers actually getting off the ship (I guess they get a cut of some of the “attractions” but on the ship they get 100%), so why do they care if tendering makes it harder for the passengers to go ashore? Just askin’

    Also, why not let the ships keep the casinos open in port (passengers only, no locals) and charge them more fee per head count. Seems like easy money and you don’t need a dock for it.

    Agree with the shade comment. If there were palms on the sidewalks downtown it sure would look better and not be so blazing hot in the summer. It’s mostly concrete everywhere you look.

    • Andy Gord says:
      I speak only as a cruise ship passenger, not a Cayman resident.  I think the reason cruise ships care about tendering is because their passengers care.  My wife and I like coming to Cayman but tendering is inconvenient (and for some elderly or less mobile passengers, potentially dangerous due to the movement of the tender when tied to the ship).  It is also time consuming.  We always return to the ship for lunch after a morning in port.  In Cayman it seems the ships leave earlier than other ports (usually 3:00 – 4:00) so after lunch on board it is not worth the small amount of time we would have left to return to the town.  We would return if there was a dock making it easier.  We also agree 100% with the shade comment. Palms on the sidewalks downtown would definitely look better.  We agree also that it does seem like concrete everywhere.  The first impression of cruise passengers is not especially positive – sidewalks are inadequate or in poor repair, crossing the street seems daunting, – all types of things that could be addressed with a cruise ship dock area.  What we're concerned about – and think Cayman should be concerned about – is the growing number of alternative ports (such as Falmouth, Mahogany Bay in Roatan, etc.) which offer a very positive first impression even if there isn't much behind the facade.  Cayman, on the other hand, has a great deal to offer, especially quality shopping, beaches, and friendly people.  We hope it doesn't get left behind as cruise lines develop their future schedules.
  2. Anonymous says:

    Maybe, if the cruisers made a better impression on Cayman there would be more interest in Cayman making a good impression on them. It is hard to want to woo them when so many are not wearing cover-ups off the beach, are ignorant of the request to wear them, parade around town and in shops half dressed, showing little respect for private properties along the beach, think that intoxication is the way to enjoy themselves and, many times, display rude and insulting behavior to the shop staff and locals they meet.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Cayman in 2010 was number 4 in crusie passengers in the entire Caribbean region, including Mexico! not bad for not having cruise berths etc……. Yes we do more business that most the ports that have mega cruise facilities.

    • Anonymous says:

      It won’t stay that way for the future – read the news, ships are already being redeployed – stop resting on past laurels and plan for the future, or prepare to be left behind.

  4. Anonymous says:

    the real problem with this latest expert offering all the complaints and suggestions is that he too is part of the problem…..someone posted his career and his roles here, its all cruise related….do you think he’d be bothered arguing for a better cruise port if his boss didnt own most of downtown and 30 odd stores dependent on it? of course not……but thats fine……however, the problem with the cruise industry in cayman is really simple – its always pushed by those with hidden (and less hidden) agendas…it never has support (at least publicly) by those who are not in line for direct, immediate benefit…therefore the public couldnt care less about it happening or not and we end up more concerned about whether any port will kill a dive site or 2, instead of understanding the major potential long term benefits of a proper cruise port here in cayman……until those who seek to benefit the most pipe-down, and until the public at large can understand how we’ll all benefit, its going to go nowhere fast…..cause we dont care really…………..as for Mr Tredwell, i heard his boss is buying all of nassau in the bahamas so i think he’ll be ok for a while, they have nice docks for the ships!

  5. Goober says:

    Cayman NEEDS taxi drivers that have the following skills & attributes





    Start there. Then we’ll work on the rest.


    • Anonymous says:

      e) Dont smoke.
      f) Know how to operate the buses indicators.
      g) Dont use the centre turn lane to overtake.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Most people who cruise do so because it is their vacation of choice. I doubt that many of them would prefer a stay-over visit anywhere. Pay more attention to retaining those who stay over year after year. We spend a lot of money yet are held hostage to the cruise ship schedule and to avoiding the masses who are deposited on the island. And, if you must have cruise ships, dump Carnival and stick to the higher end lines.

  7. Diver says:

     Hugh has mentioned this before. We all agree with the "first impressions" mantra. But a quick check of our cruise ship visitor’s demographics will show that we don’t attract the high end cruise lines that heis reffering to. The so called "high end" visitors do not want to be amongst thousand of people. Most of our cruise visitors are repeat cruise visitors who prefer the affordability of a Caribbean cruise rather than to come back to stay on any of the visited islands. In fact many of them are not even sure what island they are on!.

    I do think that improving what we have is a must though. The actual design does not provide enough shade and allows visitors to flow into Harbour Drive recklessly,crossing the road anywhere without looking. Also there are no proper side walks for people to walk along. And I agree that people walking north pass the terminal along the shore line must think they are somewhere else in the Caribbean rather that Grand Cayman. I even get confused when I see the shanty looking vendor posts and the agressive, careless taxi drivers yelling for a fare! Perhaps that is where we can improve right the way.

    • Anonymous says:

      don’t you just love they way we look down on the people who come off the ships???……. more wonderland stuff….

  8. Anonymous says:

    Most visitors whether by ship or plane proabably don’t come back because Cayman is VERY EXPENSIVE, not necessarily because of the lack of a dock.  I cater to stayover and ship visitors on a daily basis in my emploment and they all love Cayman because of its cleanliness and lack so far of fear of crimes compared to other destinations.  They do not complain about having to tender to shore or the facilitties.  They comment on the cost to visit here.  While I think some improvements could be made to what we have now, I do not think that building a cruise berthing facility is necessary, especially when we have other more pressing issues that need our immediate time and money invested in.  Crime reduction and more severe punishment, education, health care and rising costs of living for us and visitors.  Lets get our priorities in order here.  We offer a great product even if it is expensive and people on ship and plane will come until we become just another tourist trap riddled with crime.  Our cruise ship business has increased exponentially since the first crusie ship ever came here many moons ago even without a dock.  That is NOT the problem.

    • Anonymous says:

      Again, stop and read the news – ships are already being redeployed and will not keep coming here like before, as some people like to think.

  9. New secret admirer says:

    It is part of Mr. Dart group of companies and Mr. Threadwell was (is) also a managing director of Island Companies,major retailer here in the Cayman Islands. Mr. Treadwell expertise comes as a former Port Director(Cruise Line) and in charge of several port lecturers including boutiques on board and used to work for the Cruise Line before being employed by Mr. Dart to replace Mr. John Rea as managing Director of Island Companies who was forced to retire in a re shuftle of top notch employees.ie Caymanians.  Mr.Treadwell close connection with the cruise line goes back to many years and is no secret. It brings Mr. Dart’s group of Companies very closely tied to the Cruise Industry !

  10. Anonymous says:

    Yet another business shutters on Fort Street…. and it’s right across from the ‘new’ cruise terminal.  When will the government wake up.  It’s not Dart that Cayman should be scared of, it’s the outdated policies and politicians who are more full of themselves than pride for their country.  Cayman has the most opportunity in the Caribbean and is slowly wasting it away…… the country survived Hurricane Ivan, but can it survive its joke of a political system?

  11. Anonymous says:

     We should thank Mr. Treadwell for his comments, but he should do his research in advance. Nothing ever moves forward in the Cayman Islands even if it is staring the population in the face. We do seem very capable at shooting ourselves in the foot though, e.g. increased fees, rollover, inept public finances and accounting, an undeserved sense of entitlement,  taxi ripoffs, early close Saturday nights and no music on Sundays,  – the list really is endless. 

  12. Anonymous says:

    I always wonder what cruise ship passengers do once they land in Cayman. There are no cute little bars or restaurants in town or close to town to hang out at that offer any sort of “local” experience. There is no place in town that offers shade and ambiance where one can eat some ice cream or drink a coffee and listen to Calypso or Reggea. When you go to the beach, you have to bake in the sun as there is only a plain beach with a bunch of concrete buildings on it. No tropical palm trees etc.

    • Anonymous says:

      Totally agree with you. However please note that Calypso and Reggae originated with Trinidad and Jamaica respectively, it cannot be termed as “local” music – Cayman should play its own “local” music.

      • Anonymous says:

        The writer did not term Calypso and Reggae as ‘local’ music. Although are Calypso and Reggae not Caribbean music or are the Cayman Islands not in the Caribbean?

        • Anonymous says:

          Read the post again. The writer referred to the tourist having a “local experience” and went on to talk about having coffee and ice cream and listening to calypso and reggae. Cayman has its own local musicians and music, so if the goal is to offer the tourist a truly “local experience”, then the tourist should behearing “Cayman music” instead of music from the other islands in the Caribbean.

          And yes, while Cayman is physically part of the Caribbean, it repeatedly states that it has its own unique, rich culture which sets it apart. So then, the goal should be to promote Cayman culture, instead of other islands. Otherwise, why does the tourist bother to come here, to get more of the same thing? They might as well stay in the other islands.

          • Anonymous says:

            No need to read the post again. Tourists hear calypso and reggae and it is classed as Caribbean music, not ‘oh, that song is from Jamaica’ or ‘that song is from Trinidad’. There are two ‘local’ guys playing down at the cruise terminal and they play and sing Caribbean music.

            Let’s tell American singers not to play or sing a British song or vice versa etc.

            Music is an international language and should be enjoyed by everybody everywhere.


          • Just Sayin' says:

            One can only dance around a pole for so long in this heat

        • Anonymous says:

          Sadly, they are only part of the Caribbean when it suits them, like after Ivan when they accepted all the aid being flown in and donated by their Caribbean neighbours, who were also the first ones to come to their aid and help them clean up and rebuild. The rest of the time they act as if they are better than everyone else. Remember the ethnic cleansing, err, sorry, I mean the rollover, that took place as soon as the island was rebuilt ? When foreigners including Caribbean workers were unceremoniously sent packing without so much as a thank you? The disdain shown for foreign workers including those from other Caribbean islands, is well known. Since Cayman claims to have its own unique culture, stop passing off other islands’ music as your own. Play your own instead. The tourist sailing from Port-of-Spain or Montego Bay wants something different, after all.

          • Anonymous says:

            Nobody is claiming to be ‘passing off other islands’ music..’ as their own. Are Calypso and Reggae not played in other parts of the world? Guess rock music just better be played in USA or UK?

  13. Anonymous says:

    The Port Authority is to blame for this.  Time to clean up and get this Port running and operating better than any other location in the Caribbean.  Too many friend..friend situations going on. 

  14. Common Sense says:

     Yes, Mr. Hugh Treadwell works for Dart.  When the GREED stops then capitalism can start again.  Instead of wondering who will get their slice of the pie, the govt needs to simply build a looooong cement dock just like the one in Costa Maya.  This is all that is needed.  Stop the greed and let the people come again!  photo of dock included in link attached.  Simple, simple, simple….and it was a lovely place to cruise.  The BEST thing I liked was the simple dock and no massive duty-free push to purchase (oops, that IS Mr. Treadwell’s expertise if you google his career).


  15. Anonymous says:

     Another complaint from cruisers is filthy washrooms at some of the attractions, and staff at these sites hustling for tips, even though they are government run.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Oh boy! Dart in disguise!
    Another expert on what Cayman should be!
    God help us!

  17. Anonymous says:

    don’t forgetabout the 3rd world facilities at spotts!!!

  18. petermilburn says:

    Sounds like this expert knows what he is talking about and is saying what a lot of people have been saying for quite some time.I am a little surprised that he did not mention the fact that keeping the cruise arrivalsat a manageable level (say 3-4 ships per day) would enhance the possible return of the folks as stay over visitors.These are the key to Caymans rebounding economy and until we get that fact across to certain people we will have a long hard road to full recovery.I again want to remind everyone I am not against cruise tourism but this form of tourism should be the stepping stone to long stay tourism.It will work if done properly and with the right people doing the planning.Everyone WILL benefit from both cruise and stay over tourism.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Part of the bad experience onshore for cruise ship passengers is having too many ships in port at the same time.  Wouldn’t it be better to have fewer ships and more of the high end ones?

    As long as we are on the route of Ocho Rios, Cancun etc. we will be getting them all at the same time.  More is not necessarily better!

    • Anonymous says:

      Much of the high-end ones are no longer coming, as they are being redeployed to other destinations, and Royal Caribbean can’t come at all because there are no berthing facilities for their new large ships and the small ones are being phased out.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Yup…first impressions are vital. They always say when you meet someone new, the first 20 second are what that person will use to guage whether they like you or not. Same theory with cruise shippers coming to visit. They will decide very quickly whether they want to consider coming back.

    The cruise shippers that come here are measured in the hundreds of thousands in any given year. Yet of those hundreds of thousands only a very small percentage ever decide to return. That in itself is very telling.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Active Capital Ltd….sounds like a nicely benign name, i wonder who they really are? Oh, do a quick google and it shows its Dart under another name…..sounds like sour grapes from this guy…and he’s pushing legalized gambling…so the truth of Darts plan for the Caymans slowly slips out….they want gaming….probably on their failed cruise port and in a hotel they’ll try and build somewhere…and he says we’ve got to sort tourism ‘otherwise private agenda’s will continue to impact business’!!! which one is he, the Kettle or the Pot?

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s no secret that Hugh Treadwell works for Dart. Nice undercover work there buddy.

    • Anonymous says:

      That Cayman doesn’t have a plan has nothing to do with DART, and really shouldn’t surprise anyone.