Steven Jackson, Business Reporter
Jamaica now ranks amongst the region's top-10 fastest-growing cruise destinations for the first time in at least five years, according to data analysed by the Financial Gleaner.
Jamaica's double-digit cruise arrival growth between January and May 2011 positioned it at sixth place among 21 other regional territories, according to data analysed from the Caribbean Tourism Organisation.
The growth coincided with its February launch of the multimillion-dollar Falmouth Cruise Pier.
Currently, St Maarten tops the region recording the highest growth at 21.5 per cent followed by The Bahamas, up 16 per cent. Jamaica's arrivals increased 12.6 per cent over the period to some 470,500 passengers.
This new growth trend puts the island (previously one of the worst performers in the region) in reach of surpassing Puerto Rico's formidable arrivals this year and extending its lead over Barbados. Over the last five years, the island placed closer to the bottom of the region ranking 12th last year; 19th in 2009; 16th in 2008; and 21st in 2007.
The Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ), which has responsibility for the sector, did not respond to requests for comment.
The newly opened Falmouth pier already accounts for the bulk of total cruise passenger arrivals compared with Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, and Port Antonio. Ocho Rios previously held the record for cruise activity.
In its first five months of operation, February to June, the Falmouth pier landed nearly 181,650 passengers and 65,400 crew, generating roughly US$15.8 million (J$1.35 billion) in passenger expenditure. Sunday Business estimates are based on the Annual Travel Statistics 2010 published by the Jamaica Tourist Board, which stated that "cruise passengers spent an average of US$87.35 per person per night".
Government's share of the visitor expenditure at the Falmouth Cruise Pier is projected at only J$91.4 million this fiscal year, up from J$56.7 million in the last fiscal year, based on the Jamaica Public Bodies 2011-2012 report published by the Ministry of Finance.
Additionally, Ocho Rios cruise pier income is projected to be flat at J$30 million, while the Port Antonio Marina is projected at J$48 million, or nine per cent higher than in the last fiscal year. Montego Bay pier data were not disclosed.
Opened in February
The Falmouth pier accommodated its first cruise liner on February 17. The official opening and docking of the world's largest passenger vessel was realised in March; however, construction continues at the facility. The pier was developed by the PAJ in partnership with Royal Caribbean Cruise Limited (RCCL), whose investments were estimated at US$167 million and US$102 million, respectively.
In March, RCCL promised to flood the historic town of Falmouth with eight million cruise ship passengers over the next 10 years.
The port boasts modern high-tech facilities and allows for the docking of the world's largest cruise ships. It also has the capacity to handle at least two mega ships concurrently.
On completion, the components of this state-of-the-art facility will include a terminal building to house customs, immigration, and port security. Other areas will include restaurant services, retail shops, as well as a transportation centre. Subsequent phases will include on-site attractions, hotel and residential developments.
CAPTION: Passengers from the Oasis of the Seas, the world's largest passenger cruise ship, seen here in the tram cars as they prepare to tour historic Falmouth. The ship made its inaugural trip to the new Falmouth Pier in Trelawny, with approximately 6,000 passengers and 2,000 crew members on board on March 22, 2011. The new cruise pier, on which finishing touches remain, is a US$269-million development. Royal Caribbean cruise line said it plans to bring as many as eight million passengers into the Falmouth port over the next decade. - File