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(CNS Business): For the first time since April 2011 the number of cruise passengers arriving in George Town in a given month increased on the previous year’s figure. In the first month of this year 186,485 people arrived in Grand Cayman on board cruise ships, compared to 175,536 last January. The figure is the largest number of January arrivals since 2008 and represented an optimistic 6.2% rise in arrivals. Meanwhile, arrivals at the airport fell very slightly for the first time in many months. 215 less passengers flew into Owen Roberts International in January 2012 when compared to 2011, despite a promising increase of 224 passengers from Europe.
While cruise passenger arrivals had been declining over the last eight months, air arrivals had enjoyed a continued increase since August 2010. January saw a dip of just 0.4% on January 2011, when the number of arrivals had increased by 5.8% on the 2010 figure for that month. The drop in air arrivals related to ‘other’ destinations as visitors from Europe increased by 12% and those from North America had remained steady.
The more than six per cent increase in cruise passengers, however, offers some promise to struggling downtown merchants, who witnessed an overall decline throughout the year of more than 12 per cent in the number of cruise visitors arriving in Grand Cayman. In the last quarter alone there was a drop of more than 18% in visitors. Just over 1.4 million cruise visitors arrived in Cayman in 2011, compared to almost 1.6 million in 2010.
Government has stated that it anticipates moving to an agreement to build cruise berthing facilities in George Town with China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) later this month. The plan for the George Town facilities will enable the latest class of mega cruise ships, which are currently bypassing Cayman, to berth in the capital, boosting future arrival figures.
However, local merchants are now deeply concerned that the size of the upland development being proposed by the Chinese firm is so vast, dwarfing the current retail areas of George Town, that it will wipe out any benefit they would see from the expected increase in cruise passengers. According to the latest plans circulating, there will be more than 100,000 sq ft of retail space in the cruise berthing upland development.
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