September 26, 2020

The Editor Speaks: I must be plain daft!


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Colin WilsonwebVirgin Islands Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty in our article today “V.I. tourism community looks to opening of ”:

“….. the maxim ‘a rising tide raises all boats’ should hold true. This news puts the spotlight on the Caribbean region as a whole, widening the appeal for Caribbean vacations and providing a win-win opportunity for all.”

A win-win situation for all?

I must be plain daft!

And this is not the only tourism professional that has uttered similar words.

Thankfully, in the same article there is a number of warnings.

West Indian Co. President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boschulte said he has been monitoring the situation with Cuba for a while.

“It’s another signal for us in the territory that competition continues to grow around us,” he said.

The mega cruise ships that are typically filled with American travelers leaving from U.S. mainland ports have not been calling on Cuba because of the travel ban.

While Canadian and European travelers have been coming to Cuba for years, Cuba’s cruise ship ports are typically built for smaller ships, according to Boschulte. The existing ports are just not equipped to take the mega ships that call regularly in the territory.

Perhaps he hasn’t heard that has no cruise ship terminal and these large ships actually use tenders to embark their passengers.

Nicholson-Doty said she anticipates that Cuba would fall in a itinerary for a cruise.

Yes, she is right there and this is where we lie.

I cannot see how opening up Cuba to the is going to stimulate more traffic to the Caribbean.

As soon as the door to Cuba is open to Americans that is the destination they will first be visiting. They will be curious and the US visitors to the Caribbean will most certainly go there. Yes, in a few years they may come back but Cuba is the largest of all the Caribbean islands and it is the nearest to the USA.

It is steeped in history. It has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and it has a tourism model built around the all-inclusive destination – it is at the top!

Cuba will no doubt attract new American tourists to the Caribbean …… unfortunately Cuba will the predominant Caribbean island they will visit.

Here in Cayman, we will be hit the hardest and our tourism board must come up for expanding into different markets very quickly because the US visitors will be a lot less.

I made an observation in my Editorial yesterday that Cayman has one point in its favour as a tourist destination to American tourist and it brought this comment from one of our readers:

I had to laugh at your comment, “we do have one thing in our favour with the American public over Cuba – we speak English”.

The reader goes on to say:

I remember a very amusing incident at R-C where the Caymanian receptionists’ command of English was, at best, questionable (sort of, “You say waaaa?”) and it wasn’t the only time I witnessed communications problems with local hotel staff. At R-C they eventually gave up and their supervisor had to take over.

In fact the Cubans all seem to speak at least passable English and most of them are pretty good. Certainly on our travels over there we had no problems. In contrast if you go to most Miami hotels now (and I’m speaking from experience going back at least 10 years) Spanish is the main language and a lot of the staff speak very little English. In contrast we found the Cubans were not only happy to speak English but anxious to improve their language skills. The hotel staff were also dealing with people from other European countries and we heard French and German being spoken. The only people we saw having problems were some Russians, who the Cubans despise, and they were being forced to speak Spanish.

The all-inclusive holiday is pretty much the only game in play in Europe and the UK. About three years ago UK tour operator Thomson-FirstChoice (who are owned by the German company TUI) went over to 100% all-inclusive, they no longer offer any other options, and that seems to be the way industry in general has moved. Certainly all the companies I’ve made package holiday arrangements with since coming back here were entirely all-inclusive. It’s a huge market – as an example 3 million tourists go to Cuba every year and the majority those are on all-inclusive packages.

The fact that the Cayman Islands hasn’t been able to cash in on any of this is to me a bit disturbing.

The writer then elaborates even more on my point about the all inclusives:

He claims all inclusives will not work here because:

A combination of unrealistic room rates…… and various extras like accommodation tax means that the tour operator is being asked to pay 4 star rates for what are little more than motel rooms.

Why offer customers a week on Grand Cayman for what is potentially going to be around £1800-£2000 per person when they can go to Cuba for £800 or Jamaica for £1000 and stay in better hotels? Right now a couple from the UK looking at BA Holidays for a Caribbean holiday in May face a bill of over £2000 just for flights to ORIA and a week in a basic room at the Comfort Suites. If they search through the BA website they’ll find that sort of money will get them a week beachfront all inclusive in St Lucia and the same in Antigua is even cheaper.

One of the problems with Grand Cayman is that even places like Comfort Suites, which I rate very highly, don’t have the facilities required by the big holiday operators.

Hotel accommodation in the Cayman Islands isn’t high-end – at best it’s good/average and for that it’s damned expensive.

And this isn’t necessarily criticism of the hotels or their management because the financial burdens imposed by CIG, CUC and everyone else must be immense.

You may not agree with everything the writer says but nothing he says is plain daft.

That is more than I can say for some of the comments from our Caribbean tourist chiefs, and there are lot of tourism related stories published in iNews today.

And on that happy note may I take this opportunity on behalf of Joan to wish you all a very Merry and blessed Christmas. Thank you for your support and iNews Cayman broke a milestone this year with over 1,000 hits per day.

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