Cruise tourism generated some $142 million (US$71.03 million) for the Barbados economy last year, putting its performance half-way between 36 Caribbean destinations, according to the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA).
But while the island scored high in visitor satisfaction, just over four in ten cruisers who called at Barbados don’t intend to return to the island.
The latest FCCA cruise analysis survey placed Babados 18th among the 36
destinations participating in the survey. It reported that among all destinations, the industry generated nearly $6.8 billion (US$3.4 billion) in direct spending by passengers, 79,000 jobs and $1.8 billion ($903 million) in employee wages.
The data, which was collected up to October 2018, looks at the economic impact of the cruise industry on each destination, passenger attributes and satisfaction and passenger, and crew and cruise line spending, among other things, for the 2017/2018 cruise year.
The cruise industry employed 2,351 Barbadians, the 10th highest employment numbers, the survey said.
While arrivals to Barbados for the year reached 730,900 passengers and 330,000 crew, only 630,800 passengers and 127,800 crew members disembarked their ships – a total of 757,800 onshore passengers and crew.
On average, each passenger spent $166.24 (US$83.12), leaving $104.86 million (US$52.43 million) in Barbados.
Average spend per crew was $109.8 (US$54.90), totalling $13.88 million (US$6.94 million), while total cruise line spending reached $23.32 million (US$11.66 million).
In a 2015 study, the total passenger spend was US$43.30 million and crew total spend reached US$4.5 million – a 21.1 per cent and 54.1 per cent increase respectively for the 2017/2018 period.
The survey said 56 per cent of transit passengers bought a tour and some 51.6 per cent of those surveyed said it was their first time visiting the island.
On average passengers spent 4.02 hours onshore during their cruise visit here.
Cozumel led all 36 destinations with US$474 million in cruise tourism contribution, followed by the Bahamas with US$406 million, Jamaica with US$245 million, the Cayman Islands with US$225 million and the USVI with US$185 million.
Combined, these five destinations, with US$1.5 billion in direct expenditures, accounted for 46 per cent of the total cruise tourism expenditures among the 36 destinations.
The Bahamas, with 2.97 million combined passenger and crew visits, had the second highest volume of visits in the Caribbean. Thus, each visit generated an average total expenditure of $136.53 across all passenger and crew visits.
“Only five of the top eight destinations can be considered high volume destinations with more than one million passenger visits during the cruise year – Cozumel (3.5 million) the Bahamas (2.4 million), Jamaica (1.8 million), the Cayman Islands (1.6 million) and Puerto Rico (1.1 million). The remaining three – St Kitts (979,000), USVI (944,000) and St. Maarten (784,000) each had under 1 million visitors in the 2017/18 cruise year,” said the 110-page document.
It pointed out that direct expenditures per passenger across all destinations remained virtually unchanged from $133.78 during the 2014/2015 cruise year to $133.25 during the 2017/2018 cruise year.
This slight decline in the average per passenger spend was largely due to “a decrease in the watches and jewelry category”.
“In addition, fewer passengers spent money on taxis and local transportation this year compared to 2014/15 – 18.7 per cent versus 23.7 per cent – resulting in an overall weighted average decrease of about $0.61 per passenger,” it added.
“These decreases were only partially offset by increases in the average expenditure per passenger for shore excursions, and local crafts and souvenirs which increased by 8.3 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively,” said the findings.
The report also noted that damages from hurricanes Irma and Maria resulted in nearly two million fewer passenger visits to St Maarten and the USVI – the top two destinations in terms of average per passenger spend in both studies.
“Had these two destinations received a similar number of onshore visits as in the 2014/2015 study, the overall year-over-year average per passenger spend would have actually increased,” it explained.
The Caribbean remains the world’s most popular cruise destination, with the 36 destinations welcoming 29.5 million passengers and 11.3 million crew arrivals during the review period.
“Of these, just under 39 per cent of the crew, 4.4 million, and 85 per cent of the passengers, 25.2 million, disembarked and visited the destinations,” it explained.
On a scale of one to ten, Barbados received one of the highest scores, 8.20, for overall satisfaction among guests, with 93 per cent satisfied and seven per cent not satisfied. This placed the country 7th on the satisfaction scale, behind Cozumel, Puerto Vallarta, Curacao, Aruba, St Kitts, Mazatlán.
But only 57 per cent indicated that they were likely to return to the destination while 43 per cent were not likely to return.
Passengers to Barbados were also highly satisfied with their purchased tour, knowledge of their guide, professionalism of their guide, value of their tour, taxis and/or local transport.