Holiday bookings look good for Cayman this Christmas and into the New Year, although some properties are filling up better than others.
With regard to room stock, there are 4,281 rooms available to tourists on Grand Cayman, 195 on Cayman Brac and 141 on Little Cayman for high season from hotels, condos and guesthouses (just over 4,600 altogether).
Many properties are booked out for the Christmas and New Year and for many properties bookings are looking steady into the months beyond January.
‘We are encouraged by the bookings for the Christmas season,’ said Cayman Islands Tourism Association President Karie Bergstrom. ‘However, this time of year has never really been an issue for us as many repeat visitors book their trip one year in advance for this timeframe. Our biggest concern is the year ahead.’
Airlift out of the Northeast US and the cost of doing business in Cayman, especially the high costs of utilities, are still the big areas of concern for CITA.
Ms Bergstrom noted that the CITA has been working diligently with the Department of Tourism and Ministry of Tourism to get direct airlift from the Northeast, the market that delivers the highest number of visitors for the Cayman Islands.
There is only a once a week direct service between Grand Cayman and the New York area (Newark, New Jersey).
‘Several of the larger hotels have reported that they have lost quite a bit of business because visitors from this area are unable to get flights into the islands. Our issue isn’t attracting people to our beautiful islands, it is getting them here.
‘Our major centre for travellers from the North East is Miami, but the seats are being taken more and more by cruise passengers travelling to Miami to embark on their ships. We can get them from Miami to here but they can’t get to Miami.’
The Ministry, DoT and CITA have been in discussion with several air partners, but at this time have been unsuccessful in getting any help from them, said Ms Bergstrom. ‘There are several issues that have to be considered and it is not an easy task to achieve.’
They are continuing to work on the possibility of this for the next winter season, she said.
Meanwhile, last week the occupancy at the 365-room Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman resort was in the 90 per cent range with a lot of incentive corporate groups, with a little lull until 22 December when guests start steadily arriving for the holidays. The hotel is then fully committed until 2 January and is looking very busy beyond this.
‘Transient travel is going very well and exceeding anticipated pick-up,’ said General Manager Jean Cohen.
At The 343-room Westin Casuarina Resort the Christmas period is booked out and January looks very good – ‘better than usual’ said Sales Manager Poppy Guloien. February, March and April are also looking very positive with many dates fully sold out, she added.
‘We’re very optimistic and hope that we’ll have a very good high season,’ said Carolina Voulliéme, director of Marketing at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort, a 305-room property.
Although coming up to Christmas, December looks softer than last year, at a current 55 per cent occupancy, the hotel is still getting bookings for later this month.
But business looks to pick up the week just after Christmas with an expectation of at least 80 per cent. Into January, February, March and April business also looks promising and Ms Voulliéme said it looks like occupancy could go to 80 per cent at times.
Shangri-la, a six-bedroom B&B in West Bay, is fully booked out until 20 January, after which there is some availability.
Owner Eileen Davidson said that last year as soon as Christmas was over the bookings began to fly in for February and March, which were busy months last year.
At Plantana Condos Assistant General Manger Marcia Eichenberger reports that they are very happy with their high season bookings.
Thirty seven of the 49 condos at the development are in the rental pool and with 75 per cent occupancy during November it was the best for that month in the past four years, said Ms Eichenberger.
The 37 condos have been booked out a year in advance for Christmas and January looks to be better than the past couple of years, with 75 per cent to 80 per cent occupancy. February is almost fully booked, at 95 per cent occupancy, and March is at 85 per cent to 90 per cent. April looks like 70 per cent.
At The Avalon it’s a booked out Christmas for all the rental units. Dominique Daigle, filling in for the manager, estimates that anywhere from 15 to 20 of the units are rental, out of a total of 27 condos.
From mid January to May is also fully booked.
At Lacovia Condominiums where there are 35 out of 55 condos in the rental pool, office administrator Sandra Parchment said they are sold out for Christmas and the first three weeks of January are much better than normal, with very high bookings. Usually there is a lull after 6 January for a week or so, but this is not the case this year until the end of January.
February, March and April look good, at about 60 per cent occupancy and April and May are also booking well, showing 35 per cent to 40 per cent occupancy.
At Little Cayman Beach Resort things are a little slower than normal for the Christmas period, with occupancy for Christmas week at 55 per cent, when it would normally be full. However, the booking window is very short, said General Manager Jim Henry, so there is some room for improvement.
However from 27 December into the New Year the resort is full. The rest of January is soft enough at 50 per cent while February looks better. The resort consists of 40 rooms and 28 condos, 18 of which are in the rental pool.