Air arrivals show steady growth

Tourist air arrivals for this year are showing a trend of a steady climb over last year and cruise ship arrivals set a record in March.

Tourist air arrivals for March, at 35,146, are a full 11.6 per cent up on last year, at 31,493.

Figures for the first quarter of this year, at 86,819, are up 13.3 per cent on the equivalent for 2006, at 76,660.

Minister of Tourism Charles Clifford said it was gratifying to see the 2007 air arrival statistics surpassing those of 2006 by such a margin.

‘Each of our primary source markets has posted increases when compared to March 2006,’ he said ‘The USA is up 13.4%; Europe is up 13%; and Canada is up 9.2%.’

Mr. Clifford noted that increases in air arrivals have been consistent from 2006, when every month posted an increase on the previous year.

‘That trend has continued in 2007 with every month thus far posting increases compared to last year.’

March 2007’s air arrival figure is also nearly double that of 2005, when it was 18,810.

March 2007 is also up 2.1 per cent on March’s 2003 figure of 34.421, when tourism was in post-9/11 recovery mode.

‘These results confirm that our more focused and creative marketing strategies coupled with our determination to enhance our product and leverage strategic partnerships are beginning to pay dividends for the destination,’ Mr. Clifford said.

‘These successes have been made possible by the public and private sectors working in partnership towards a common goal.

‘I hasten to add that we are still facing challenges as a destination but these are by no means insurmountable as long as our public and private sector partnership remains strong.’

One of the challenges will be to get the figures up to an above those in the months immediately preceding Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.

The March 2007 figure for this year was still 5.7 per cent down on 2004’s figure of 37,248, when tourism had rebounded even more from the 9/11 terrorism attacks in the United States.

The 2007 March figure still falls behind figures for 2000 and 2002 by 10 per cent (at 39,099 and 39,378 respectively) and behind 2001 by 15 per cent, at 41,558.

Average occupancy rates in hotels for March were 81.9 per cent, the third highest occupancy in the past 10 years for hotels, the highest being 83.9 per cent in 1999.

In the condos/villas/guesthouse sector for March 2007 the average occupancy rate was 58.1 per cent. This is the third lowest occupancy in condos for the past 10 years for this month. The lowest two were 55.6 last year and 55.4 per cent in 2003 and the highest was in 1998 at 74.1 per cent.

Post Ivan occupancy rates are not the lowest because there was a shortage of room stock which brought up occupancy.

For cruise tourism, March 2007’s figure of 253,348, is much the same as last year’s equivalent, at 253,124, with a difference of 0.09 per cent.

The 2007 figure is the highest cruise figure ever for a month in the Cayman Islands.

The number of cruise tourist arrivals for the first quarter of this year is 5.87 per cent ahead of the same period last year.

For 2007 the total so far is 683,361, while for 2006 the total was 645,477 – a difference of 37,884 passengers.

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