Air arrivals climb

Cayman is beginning to approach that point where it is back to pre-Ivan numbers for tourist air arrivals Minister Clifford pointed out at Wednesday’s Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Wharf Restaurant.

Air arrivals for June just passed are over 24,000, while for June 2004 the figure was approximately 26,000 (26,890), said Director of Tourism Pilar Bush.

The June statistics were not due to be posted on the Department of Tourism’s website until today (Friday).

What makes the figures interesting is that Ms Bush noted that 2004 itself was a record breaking year.

She explained, ‘After 9/11 the private sector and the Department of Tourism had to work really, really hard to deal with external challenges, as well as to put together local promotions and international marketing programmes that would overcome all of those external challenges. So, June 2004’s figure was not in itself an easy number to reach.

‘So, the fact that we’re up to 24,000 two years later, with not just Hurricane Ivan, but a number of current external factors impacting travel, I think it is a testament to how hard the Cayman Islands Tourism Industry is working to recover.’

Minister Clifford said that half way into this year tourist air arrivals are almost 100 per cent better than where they were this time last year.

For this year, through June, they are at over 150,000 and for this time last year they were at 83,105.

He commended the Department of Tourism in this regard.

And for June 2006, with arrivals just over 24,000, they are up 10,000 when compared to 14,000 in 2005.

The Minister pointed out that so far this year (through June) the country is just 17,000 visitors shy of the total number of air arrivals it received in 2005 (167, 801).

‘We’re well on the way to recovery,’ he said, adding that this success demonstrates the resilience of the people and their commitment to excellence.

The Minister added that Grand Cayman is ‘almost there’ in terms of the number of hotel rooms back online.

He pointed out that the Hyatt Regency has indicated that it will rebuild.

‘We have properties such as Hyatt Regency still not rebuilt, and we have some indications from the owners that they will, in fact, rebuild as a hotel, and we are trying our best to do what we can to facilitate that.’

Mr. Clifford said there are a number of condominium complexes being repaired.

‘Generally, at this time, with the Ritz-Carlton coming on board, and the fact that a lot of those properties that had received damage as a result of Hurricane Ivan took the decision to renovate their entire properties, the product today is much better than it was before the hurricane. And from that perspective the Ministry and Department of Tourism prefer to put Hurricane Ivan behind us.’