Tourism's poor report card
A survey of cruise tourism gives Dominica a failing grade
Dominica is a destination of unfriendly people, discourteous store employees and with little to see or do, a recent survey among cruise passengers and crew has found.
The 2015 survey on the economic contribution of cruise tourism to the destinations' economies was conducted by custom market analysts Business Research and Economic Advisors (BREA) for the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) and looked at a number of cruise-related matters in 35 destinations.
It paints a damning picture of Dominica as a cruise destination with passengers thinking little of the product and service.
The country placed at or near the bottom in passenger satisfaction with things to see and do, welcome on the ground, courtesy of store employees and taxi and transportation. Dominica was dead last when passengers were asked how likely they were to recommend the destination to family and friends and was also last in satisfaction level with the initial shore welcome, although as many as 81 per cent said they were satisfied. The average satisfaction level was 91 per cent.
The report, published this month, stated that only 32 per cent of those who participated in the study would return for a land-based holiday, placing Dominica fourth from bottom ahead of only Tobago, Guadeloupe and Nicaragua.
Passengers and crew were unimpressed with the level of activity here, with only the British Virgin Islands, Costa Maya in Quintana Roo, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic below Dominica, according to the 1296 passengers and 553 crew who completed the study.
The cruise passengers and crew also found Dominicans to be unfriendly, ranking the country near the bottom in terms of passengers' perception of the friendliness of the people just above Progreso in the Mexican Yucatan, Jamaica, Guadeloupe, Martinique and the Dominican Republic,
It was third from bottom above only Tobago and the Dominican Republic in shopping experience and near the bottom regarding the courtesy of store employees, with only Progreso, Costa Maya, Guadeloupe, Martinique and the Dominican Republic scoring worse.
The taxi and local transport operators did not score too well either, placing 31st in this category while sharing an average score of 77 per cent with the Dominican Republic and doing slightly better than only Jamaica, Guadeloupe and Martinique..
Most disconcerting for tourism officials are the numbers regarding the likelihood that passengers would recommend Dominica to friends and family for a holiday. While 62 per cent said they would not recommend it, just 12 per cent were extremely likely to, while another 12 per cent were very likely to encourage others to visit.
However, the country fared a lot better on the satisfaction level of purchased tours, ranking 8th among the 35 destinations with an average of 94 per cent satisfaction, the same as the Bahamas and Belize, and slightly below top ranked Costa Rica with 97 per cent; Aruba (96 per cent) and Cozumel and Guatemala (95 per cent).
The survey-based analysis of the impacts of passenger, crew and cruise line spending found that cruise generated US$14.2 million for Dominica during the 2014/15 season, creating 373 jobs that paid US$2.9 million.
Only Bonaire (population approximately 17,000) with US$9.2 million and 191 jobs; and Grenada (US$12.2 million and 342 jobs) generated few revenue and fewer jobs.
According to the report, 226,000 passengers came ashore here during the period of the study, spending an average US$50.81 each, which generated US$11.5 million. This was less than half the average spend of US$103.83 and only in Grenada (US$46.55) and in Trinidad (US$42.58) did passengers spend less on the ground.
In terms of crew visits, there were 31,500 such visits, with an average spend of US$34.21. With the exception of the Mexican resort town of Mazatlan Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua, only in Bonaire (US$30.40) did crew members spend less. The Caribbean average was US$67.10.
Dominica collected only US$1.6 million from the cruise lines in port fees and payments to local business for services, slightly over Grenada's US$1.2 and Bonaire's US$0.9. Trinidad and Tobago combined collected US$400,000 while Guatemala and Nicaragua collected US$1 million between them.
The study found that 62.8 per cent of passengers to Dominica purchased a tour, two-thirds of whom bought from the cruise line, 21 per cent from on shore providers and 12 per cent from travel agents and other sources.
The former minister of tourism Ian Douglas has said in the past that the cruise lines were complaining about the number of locals who were selling tours to their passengers and had listed this as one of the reasons Carnival had stopped visiting here.
The 62.8 per cent is above the Caribbean average of 55.5 per cent. On average, the cruise lines charge US$61.77 for their tours here, compared to US$27.93 for passengers who purchase their tours on shore for Dominicans. Those who buy through travel agents paid an average US53.72. The overall average is US$66.36 if bought through the cruise lines, US$28.88 if bought from locals and US$57.71 if bought from other sources.
The average spend by passengers was up slightly from US48.78 in 2012 to US$50.81 in 2015. However, in line with the overall trend, the crew spent a lot less in 2015 than they did in 2012, from US$46.80 to US$34.21.
Dominica was also near the bottom in terms of the number of hours passengers spent on shore. Only Cabo San Lucas, a resort city on the southern tip of Mexico's Baja California peninsula, with 3.67 hours scored worse than Dominica's 3.73 hours. The island was also second to last in terms of overall satisfaction, with only the Dominican Republic getting a worse rating.
The result of the survey is available at http://www.scribd.com/doc/284708639/2015-Cruise-Analysis-Volume-2#scribd