January 27, 2021

The Editor Speaks: Cruise ship arrivals plummet

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Colin WilsonwebIn June cruise ship arrivals here reached a record low. In June 2012 cruise ship passengers arriving in Grand Cayman were almost 90,000 whilst this year they had dropped by over 32% to just over 61,000.

I was walking around the town centre of George Town one day last week and there was just one cruise ship moored.

You wouldn’t have thought there was even one ship moored in the harbour by the number of persons actually walking the streets and inside the shops.

To make matters worst at least half of the persons walking the streets were office workers. Their interest was to either get back to work, go to the bank or to find something to eat.

At least the food stores had their regulars.

Apparently things will improve because a number of cruise lines are moving ships from the European ports to the Caribbean and figures look a lot better for 2014 and 2015.

By then we will have a new cruise ship berthing facility. Won’t we?

But do cruise ship tourists actually spend very much?

Judging by the shops that have closed in George Town now (supposedly due to decrease in visiting cruise ships) cruise ship passengers must have done some spending in the past although this is not what some surveys show.

In an article published on Universitas Bergensis by Kim Andeassen recently, it states cruise tourists spend less.

Over the past few years, the overall number of tourists to Western Norway has declined slightly. But one group of tourists is steadily rising: the cruise ship passenger. However, the cruise ship industry matters little to the tourism industry onshore.

– The average camping tourist leaves behind twice as much as the average cruise ship tourist. And this even when one excludes costs and taxes for camping, says Professor Svein Larsen of the University of Bergen’s Department of Psychosocial Science.

Larsen has conducted a comprehensive survey of tourism in Western Norway, and recently published his results in the article Belly full, purse closed in the journal Tourism Management Perspectives.

Hey small spender

Larsen has been pioneering studies into how much revenue cruise tourism actually contributes to the local economies visited by cruise ships. Over the last three years, Larsen has spent his summers interviewing more than 8,000 tourists; of which 1,300 were cruise ship passengers.

– The result is clear, says Larsen. – Cruise tourists spend the least money of all types of tourists.

Larsen’s research shows that the average cruise tourist on average spends about NOK 300 a day onshore. Between 20 and 40 per cent don’t even leave the ship. Half of those who leave the ship spend less than NOK 250 onshore.

In comparison, the average camping or hostel tourist spends twice this amount. The average family tourist, who stays in a hotel, tops the spending list with an average spend of NOK 1,000 a day. This comes on top of paying for the hotel room.

The new mass tourism

The psychology professor believes that the low spend per cruise tourist is down to budget cruise offers on an all-inclusive package. A six-day cruise of the Norwegian fjords may cost as little as €220. The same journey by air travel and individually arranged accommodation will usually set you back several times that amount.

– Taking a cruise is the new mass tourism, Larsen believes. – The tourists are fed onboard and even do their shopping onboard.

Also, the cruise industry needs to make money. It is not unusual for cruise tourists to be let off board for a maximum of eight hours per onshore visit.

Not sustainable

The only locals profiting from the cruise ships are the port authorities, and also occasionally tourist guides and industries built specifically to cater for the cruise ship sector. Only limited resources reach public toilets, local shops, or tourist attractions, according to Larsen. He believes local authorities need to rethink their policies on tourism.

– Maybe local authorities need to focus more on sustainable tourism, he suggests. – Young people and families spend a lot of money when on holiday. Cruise tourists, on the other hand, will rather visit a non-entrance fee museum rather than, say, the Bergen Aquarium, where you have to pay an entrance fee.

There are some categories, though, where cruise tourists spend more than other tourists: cafés, sightseeing, and shopping. On average the cruise tourist will spend NOK 50 a day in each of these three categories.

– This is not sustainable tourism, Larsen believes. – There may be queues when the cruise tourists visit town, but they don’t leave much behind for the local economy.

Other research also shows that there may be a negative environmental impact from the cruise ship industry.

For more on this story go to:


Of course, this study is about cruise passengers who visit Europe. Maybe they’re a different breed.

What’s that? “Apparently things will improve because a number of cruise lines are moving ships from the European ports to the Caribbean”.

Hmm. Maybe they won’t bring the same passengers with them.

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