While cruise passengers make up an increasing percentage of all visitors to Caribbean islands, they account for only six percent of the islands tourist revenues. From trying to obtain duty-free status to building bigger docks, islands are working to gam a larger share of the cruise passenger's vacation dollars.
According to data supplied by the Caribbean Tourism Research and Development Centre, there were well over 13.3 million stayover arrivals in the Caribbean, the Bahamas and Bermuda in 1986 (1987 statistics were not yet available); and approximately 5 million cruise ship passenger arrivals. Cruise passengers spent about US$350 million of a total US$5.66 billion spent by all tourists.
Three destinations - the U.S. Virgin Islands the Bahamas and Puerto Rico - accounted for almost two-thirds of all spending by cruise passengers in the Caribbean in Bermuda, Jamaica and Barbados also received a good share.
According to the CTRDC report, rn 1986 crwse passengers spent an average of $70 each per port. Almost half of the revenues by cruise passengers came from duty-free shopping.
Today's cruise traveler to the U.S. Vrrgrn Islands spends almost twice that amount, about $130, according to current research by the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Economic Development and Agriculture. Rafael Jackson, Northeast Regional Director for the U.S.V I., attributes this figure to the good shoppig bargams in the Virgin Islands and to the fact that they have one of the highest duty-free allowances in the Caribbean. (American tourists can take up to six fifths of liquor and five cartons of cigarettes home with them.)
Hoping to get a larger piece of the shopping action the Government of the Bahamas has agreed in principle to introduce duty-free shopping in the islands in the latter part of 1988, according to Juanita Carey, Sr. Deputy Director and General Manager, Cruise Industry Development for the Bahamas.
Air/Sea Programs in the Bahamas
The Bahamas also hopes to attract more cruise tourism by stepping up the number of air/sea programs to the main islands and the Family Islands, said Carey. For example, on October 30, 1987, Thomson Vacations started three-, four- and seven-night cruise programs from Nassau in conjunction with area hotels and Epirotiki; these packages utilize the Jason for sailings to Freeport, Little Stirrup Key and Bimini.
Reports International plans to build two piers for docking cruise ships with easy access to its Paradise Island properties; the port is expected to be completed in September, according to a spokesperson. Resorts International welcomes cruise visitors to its Paradise Island Resort/Casino with a 5:15 p.m. cabaret show.
Pre- and Post-Cruise Packages
Puerto Rico is promoting San Juan as a homeport to generate pre- or post-cruise stays; currently Carnival, Cunard, Costa, NCL and Exploration Cruise Lines sail roundtrip cruises from there. At least four San Juan-area hotels offer pre- and post-cruise packages. In recent years, Puerto Rico has participated in co-op ad campaigns with Cunard and Costa.
Old San Juan, a seven-block area of discount shops and restaurants that was completely restored in 1985, is within walking distance of where the cruise ships dock. The Isla Verde and Condado areas, with casinos, nightclubs and restaurants, are only about 10 to 15 minutes away, and a good place for cruise tourists to spend money at night, according to a spokesperson. Currently Carnival makes a night call at San Juan.
Of course, one of the best ways to bring in more cruise passenger spending is to bring in more cruise passengers, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Bahamas and Puerto Rico all have port expansions in the works or recently completed.
In St. Thomas, facilities at Crown Bay, when completed, will add berths for three or four ships to dock in addition to the four-ship West Indian Company dock in Charlotte Amalie. St. Croix plans to spend about $12- to 13- million on a second dock that will accommodate two ships in addition to the two existing ship berths, according to Commissioner Eric Dawson, Department of Agriculture and Economic Development. The St. Croix dock should be completed by year end, he said.
The Bahamas has issued a letter of intent to deepen and widen the Nassau harbor and to expand the Prince George dock to accommodate 10 ships (it now holds seven). This project will cost "several million dollars," according to Juanita Carey. She said that the Bahamas is considering creating a harbor in the Family Islands, in order to expand cruises to "select" Family Islands.
Since 1985, Puerto Rico has spent $3.5 million in renovations to the ship terminal in San Juan; $3.3 million is earmarked for more improvements, according to a spokesperson.
Gains in Pax Spending
In the CTRDC paper, it was reported that cruise passengers spent about $111 in the U.S.V.I., $54 in the Bahamas, and $47 in Puerto Rico in 1986. Tourism boards for these three destinations report that cruise passenger spending now averages about $130 in the U.S.V.I., $60 in the Bahamas, and $80 in Puerto Rico.