By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Ministry of Tourism yesterday moved to defend its statistics reflecting an increase in cruise passenger spend, stating that the variation between its numbers and that of the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) was due “to differences in the methodologies employed..... in determining the spend levels”.
The Ministry, in a statement yesterday, confirmed that it recognised the variation between Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) and Ministry of Tourism numbers in estimated cruise passenger spending while in port in Nassau and Freeport.
“The Ministry’s surveys are conducted by our research staff and are face-to-face encounters with passengers. The Business Research and Economic Advisors (BREA), on behalf of the FCCA, conducts surveys by placing question cards in cruise cabins,” the Ministry said in its statement.
“ The fresh recollections of passengers before returning to their cruise ship is preferred for our data collection as opposed to gathering information after their arrival on board. Probing questions during the face-to-face interview also enable us to collect more detailed information.”
The statement went on to say: “In the Ministry of Tourism methodology, a sample of passengers from all cruise lines is surveyed on selected days at Prince George Dock and Grand Bahama, as opposed to BREA’s survey of passengers on the FCCA-member lines only.
“In addition, the Ministry of Tourism’s data was gathered from January 2011 through December 2011 and the research data being revealed by the Ministry is for the year 2011.
“In BREA’s methodology, data was gathered for only six months - December 2011 to May 2012. However, it will closely monitor the results from its surveys in the first quarter to see if a similar pattern in average spending emerges.
“Also, the Bahamas’ research questions are based solely on the Bahamas, are specific to the experiences on our islands, and they also take into account that a vessel may call at more than one port while in the Bahamas. Spending varies from island to island in the Bahamas. New Providence has a higher spend than Grand Bahama or the private islands.”
The FCCA report released this week showed that the average cruise visitor spend in the Bahamas has slumped by 23 per cent over the past three years.
The report indicated that while per passenger spending yields have dropped between 2009 and 2012, falling from $83.93 to $64.81, this has been more than offset by an increase in visitor numbers (volumes).
The 22.8 per cent decline in per capita cruise passenger spending in the Bahamas was the largest in the Caribbean region over the past three years, bar the US Virgin Islands.
Other nations have seen double digit increases in the yields, including a 60 per cent increase in the Dominican Republic.
The FCCA data also contradictedrecent statements by Carla Stuart, the Ministry of Tourism’s director of cruise development, who said last month that per capita cruise passenger spending had increased from $73 in 2010 to $111 in 2011.
Ms Stuart recently told Tribune Business that cruise passenger spending in New Providence is up roughly 52 per cent for 2012 to-date, estimating that cruise arrivals would increase 5-10 per cent year-over-year.
Ms Stuart said that based on the ministry’s statistics the spend in Nassau has gone up to $111 from about $73, and Grand Bahama is also up $70-plus dollars from $54 dollars, “so we have seen increases in spend in Nassau and Grand Bahama.”