Air arrival statistics for 2006 show an increase of 59.3 per cent on 2005, an increase of three per cent on 2004, but decreases from nine to 24 per cent when compared with years from 2000 through 2003.
For 2006 there was a total of 267,257 air arrivals compared to 167,801 in 2005 (which was the year of recovery from Hurricane Ivan, which hit in September 2004), and 259,929 in 2004. This represents 99,456 more visitors than 2005 and 7,328 more than in 2004.
From 2000 through to 2005 there has been a steady decrease in visitor air arrivals.
The yearly air arrival figure for 2006 falls nine per cent on that of 2003 (293,517) and 12 per cent on 2002 (302,797), when tourism was also trying to recover following 9/11.
The 2006 air arrivals figure is 20 per cent down on that of 2001 (334,071) and 24.5 per cent down on 2000 (354,087).
Noting the increase of 2006’s air arrivals over the year 2005 Minister for Tourism Charles Clifford said in a press statement: ‘Despite major challenges faced by the sector following Hurricane Ivan, the year-end statistics confirm that 2006 was a strong year for tourism in the Cayman Islands.’
He also noted that cruise arrivals were up 7.3 per cent in 2006 over the prior year.
‘In light of the government and private sector’s aim to reach pre-Ivan visitor levels, the present number of 267,257 air arrivals clearly indicates notable progress,’ he said.
The most recent target figure for air arrivals for the end of 2006, given at the annual tourism conference during the year, was 240,000, a figure which has been surpassed. The original target of doubling 2005 figures (or getting 330,000 air arrivals) was not viewed as attainable following a very slow summer season.
The month of December 2006 had 27,386 air arrivals and posted an increase of 26.8 per cent in comparison to the same month the previous year (21,592).
December’s 2006 figure also compares quite favourably to that of 2001(28,049), 2002 (29,060) and 2003 ((30,848).
December’s 2006 figure is 23.5 per cent down on that of December 2000 (35,806).
Mr. Clifford noted that overall in 2006 significant increases were achieved in all of the key source markets (USA, Europe and Canada) when compared to 2005.
‘The most significant increases were posted in the Northeast region within the US, which showed an increase of 94.6 per cent in comparison to 2005. Overall the entire United States posted strong growth of 82.9 per cent for the year ending December 2006. Air arrivals from Europe increased by 31.5 per cent and Canada increased by 42.3 per cent.’
With regard to cruise tourism, the arrival figures for 2006 (1.9 million) have officially exceeded the totals in 2003 of 1.8 million. Mr. Clifford said that this demonstrates that this sector has fully recovered from the losses experienced post Hurricane Ivan.
He noted that the cruise industry, for the most part, experienced fluctuating growth numbers for each month throughout 2006, ending the year with the highest overall number ever recorded.
‘The largest influx of cruise passengers to dock in the Cayman Islands was reported in the months of January, March and December 2006 where the 200,000 mark was surpassed in each instance.’
Year over year cruise figures have been consistent, with cruise passenger numbers approaching 1.7 million in 2004, 1.8 million in 2005 and were just over 1.9 million at year end 2006, he said.