Cayman woos Europe

The Cayman Islands is to have an increased marketing presence in Europe, in a bid to boost the number of Europeans visiting the country.

‘We’re going to be aggressively pursuing that,’ said Minister for Tourism Charles Clifford in an interview with the Caymanian Compass at the Caribbean Marketplace in Puerto Rico this week. Mr. Clifford noted that a budget for this marketing is to be agreed on in the coming weeks. Now that hotel room inventory is back on track, the Minister said that there are dedicated marketing programmes and campaigns in place once more to promote the Cayman Islands overseas.

While Mr. Clifford commented that the US market is very significant, Cayman must be protected against leaning so much on one nation of visitor, he said. ‘We believe the US policies toward Cuba will be relaxed in the next two to four years and this will have a negative impact on the rest of the Caribbean as millions of US visitors will go there out of curiosity, because they could not before,’ he said, explaining that policies need to be in place to try to mitigate this.

This vigorous pursuing of the European market is something that London-based carrier British Airways is very pleased about, he said.

Just last week British Airways executives visited the destination to learn what the Cayman Islands can offer passengers and to help them identify key client groups. The BA team met with Minister Clifford, the Department of Tourism, industry leaders and the private sector.

‘BA have shown a long term commitment to Cayman and this is something Minister Clifford thanked them for,’ said the Department of Tourism’s Regional Manager for Europe Don Mc Dougall, who explained that they had maintained their four flights a week from just after the hurricane. In fact, the DoT representative said he hopes that the BA flight will become a daily service and that indications are good as the numbers on flights recently have been high. ‘The whole purpose of building a relationship is to help them build business to increase the schedule frequency,’ he said.

‘It’s very important from a marketing perspective to spread where business is coming from. The Cayman Islands has been highly focused on North America and we now see an opportunity to grow the European sector,’ he said.

Some of his reasons include the fact that British and Europeans are looking for new destinations to travel to. Although the UK is the main source destination, countries such as Ireland, Germany, Italy and France are now looking to new destinations. The market being targeted in Europe is the age 50 plus market, as there are less family ties standing in the way of travel and this age bracket has a higher disposable income.

‘The Cayman Islands still offers bragging rights as a destination because not many people in Europe have been here and when people come they have such a good experience that word of mouth spreads,’ he said.

‘Although Europeans don’t come here at the drop of a hat, once the sale is made the beds are sold for longer,’ he said, explaining that the average stay for Europeans is 10 to 14 days.

Mr. MacDougall also asserted that Miami is a very useful transit point for those travelling from Europe, when coupled with Cayman Airways service to and from Miami.

From 2003 to September 2004 six to seven per cent of the Cayman Islands’ tourist market was from Europe. ‘The consumer there doesn’t really know we were affected by a hurricane, but the tour operators couldn’t sell us until the majority of hotels were re-opened,’ he said.

But now Cayman is back, with increased inventory, and the interest from Europe is very high. ‘We’re having very positive feedback and the early indicators say that tour operators are returning,’ he said.

Interest from Europe in Grand Cayman’s newest property, The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, is very good, particularly in the conference incentives market.

‘It is opening doors for new tour operators to serve us for the first time. Many other hotels will benefit from this also, and that is because no one tour operator deals with just one hotel.’

Other markets in Europe showing potential are the dive markets in Germany, Italy, France and Spain, where promotional features on the Cayman Islands are appearing in these countries’ top magazines. Regional media blitzes are taking place in Ireland.

A major radio campaign is being launched shortly on UK radio stations, involving live feeds, themed promotions and listener competitions involving the DoT’s website. Web marketing campaigns on lifestyle sites and search engines will also feature.