Cruises creating untapped potential

Visitors by the hundreds of thousands pass through Grand Turk each year, stepping off their cruise ships to contribute to the local economy.


Despite stunning growth since the Grand Turk Cruise Center opened in 2006, the word that keeps coming up when people discuss the island’s cruise-related economy is “untapped.”

The Grand Turk terminal welcomed 261 ship calls in 2012, down slightly from the previous year.

295,000 passengers on 136 cruise ships visited in 2006, the inaugural year for the Grand Turk Cruise Center

676,647 passengers on 261 cruise ships visited in 2012

But the number of visitors on those ships rose 3.2 percent to 676,647. That number was trending toward 800,000 in 2013 before an unanticipated three-week port closure in March, said David Candib, vice president for development and operations for Carnival Corporation.

Seventy percent of all visits to the Turks and Caicos Islands now enter via the Grand Turk Cruise Center. Arrivals typically spend six to eight hours in port, with the majority of the port calls occurring during the week. The terminal can handle as many as two ships simultaneously, welcoming an average of 2,500 passengers and 1,000 crew members per ship to the 18-acre cruise centre. Visitors can shop, dine, relax on the beach, surf artificial waves or swim in the pool. A variety of excursion operators stand by to give visitors a better look at island life.

Much of the interest in Grand Turk as a destination stems from the island itself, but its location relative to multiple cruise departure hubs in the United States also makes it compatible with a variety of itineraries, Candib said. “We have seen tremendous, continued interest in the development (of Grand Turk as a destination) from the industry.”

Carnival Cruise Lines’ largest ship, Breeze (1004 length in feet) visits the port with 3690 passengers, 1386 crew

But for all that growth and success, customer feedback suggests visitors want more options on Grand Turk – and show an interest in visiting other islands, including Salt Cay. Much of the destination’s potential appears to be still untapped.

Carnival increased its commitment to the island in 2011 when it constructed a 23,000-square foot visitors’ centre in historic downtown Cockburn Town, about an eight-minute drive north of the cruise terminal. The completed facility is expected to boost the local economy, but won’t open until it attracts the right tenants. Candib said opportunity is there for retail, as well as food and beverage operations.

“We’ve seen a remarkable growth and acceptance from the cruise industry in a very short amount of time,” Candib said. “But, there are still tremendous opportunities to be had seven years later in Grand Turk.”

Image: Grand Turk Cruise Center