Tourists note high prices

Half of the stay-over visitors surveyed for the 2004 Visitor Exit Survey, the results of which are newly posted on the Department of Tourism’s website, said prices were unreasonable in the Cayman Islands.

However, only five per cent of cruise passengers mentioned the high prices. This group’s highest level of dissatisfaction (11 per cent) was overcrowding.

Stay-over respondents also had concerns regarding: overdevelopment, traffic congestion, decline in cleanliness, deterioration in beach quality, limited local entertainment, lack of cultural events and lack of public transportation.

The 2004 survey was done from 1 January through 9 September, 2004 and 1 December, 2004 through 31 January 2005 with the aim of tracking visitor experience.

Although it is a 2004 Exit Survey the month of January 2005 was used in the survey as a number of previously completed surveys had been lost due to Hurricane Ivan.

There were 908 stay-over visitors surveyed, along with 170 cruise respondents.

Cayman Airways (25 per cent), American Airlines (24 per cent), Delta (18 per cent) and US Air (13 per cent) were the top carriers.

Top properties were the Marriott (12 per cent), Divi Tiara (10 per cent), Westin (8 per cent) and Hyatt (7 per cent).

The most popular activities for stay-over guests were going to the beach (80 per cent), snorkel/swim (73 per cent), visit restaurants (70 per cent), shop (66 per cent). Forty-three per cent went diving and 33 per cent went on nature trails and learned the islands’ history.

Top factors for stay-over visits were: friends and relatives; previous visits; and websites, with www.caymanislands.ky the top mention (nine out of 10).

Forty eight per cent of the stay-over group said the trip met their expectations, while 48 per cent said it exceeded their expectations.

Half the stay-over group surveyed had been here previously.

Half of stay-over guests said they are very likely to return to the Cayman Islands by air within the next three years and another 24 per cent are somewhat likely to do so.

The main motivators for return trips are: diving, enjoyed visit, friendly people, beaches and sea, scenery.

The de-motivators are: travel to other destinations and high prices.

The top competing destinations visited by guests in the past three years are: US Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, British Virgin Islands.

A total of 98 stay-over guests were interviewed in the post-Ivan period through 31 January 2005.

The report notes that whilst the full year report showed that close to 70 per cent of stay-over visitors to the Cayman Islands perceive the islands as ‘better’ than other Caribbean destinations, this period post-Ivan saw 57 per cent in this regard. It says that this fall-off is met by a significant 17 per cent of guests during the post-Ivan survey period who believe that the Cayman Islands are the same as other similar destinations.

The report says, ‘It may be surmised from the above that the Cayman Islands are at worst seen by some as on-par rather than below-par in relation to sister Caribbean counterparts.

‘One major task for industry partners however is to strive for pre-Ivan rating levels where approximately three quarters of the guests surveyed (in both 2003 and 2004 pre-Ivan periods) assigned significantly high ratings in this regard.’

Top factors for positive stay-over visitor perceptions are: friendly people, cleanliness, safety, good diving, strong economy.

The top factors for negative perceptions were: expensive, better reefs and beaches elsewhere, stronger heritage and culture elsewhere, damage from Hurricane Ivan.

Average on-island and prepaid expenditure per person per night was US$225.84.

For cruise guests the vast majority (82 per cent) went shopping, 62 per cent swam or snorkelled, 49 per cent went on tours, 44 per cent went to the beach and 41 per cent visited restaurants.

Over one half of the cruise guests said the trip exceeded their expectations, while 40 per cent said their expectations were met.

Eleven per cent cited overcrowding as one area of dissatisfaction, five per cent were dissatisfied with the beaches and five per cent mentioned the high prices. Four per cent said docking time was too short and four per cent were concerned about the long queues to get back on the tenders.

Thirty-two per cent are very likely to return within three years and another 33 per cent somewhat likely.

Thirty per cent of those likely to return attribute this to the beautiful island and beaches, 24 per cent would like to experience more of the island, 20 per cent were impressed with the people, 12 per cent mentioned cleanliness, 10 per cent cited a good time and 11 per cent would be lured back to dive.

Of those unlikely to return 43 per cent share the view that it is very expensive to vacation in Cayman. Thirty per cent said they would like to visit other places first.

The top competing destinations visited by cruise guests in the past three years via cruise are Jamaica, US Virgin Islands, The Bahamas and Aruba.

The top destinations visited by cruise guests within the past three years via air are Jamaica, Puerto Rico and Aruba.

Sixty-six per cent of cruise visitors perceive the islands as better than other Caribbean destinations in 2004. Forty-five cruise guests were interviewed in the post-Ivan period 1 December, 2004 through 31 January, 2005. The post-Ivan figure saw 55 per cent in this regard.

‘Similar to the stay-over guest segment, this fall-off is met by an increase in the number of guests who believe that the Cayman Islands are the same as other similar destinations,’ said the report.

The top factors related to positive visitor perceptions are: cleanliness, friendly people, safety/low crime, no hassling and strong economy.

Average on-island expenditure per cruise guest was US$121.36.