Tourism figures for June show a significant drop in the number of visitors arriving in the Cayman Islands by sea, while air arrivals are modestly up compared to the previous month and June 2006 figures.
95,966 cruise ship passengers disembarked at Grand Cayman throughout June; 34,589 fewer than in May, representing a drop of 26.4 per cent. Compared with June 2006 figures, the number of cruise-ship visitors are down by 16,224, or 14.5 per cent.
While cruise ship visitors were down, air-arrival figures grew by a modest 2,410 from May. The 25,837 air arrivals are also an increase on the June 06 figure of 24,251.
Responding to the figures, Minister responsible for Tourism Charles Clifford pointed to the tendency of cruise lines to redeploy ships to Alaska and Europe during the summer months as one of the reasons for the downturn in sea arrivals. ‘In addition, there has been a general softening of the US economy, which may have impacted the number of cruise travellers during the period,’ he added.
Despite the downturn in sea-arrivals, total arrival figures for 2007 continue to outstrip 2006, with 38,890 more visitors having come to these Islands by the end of June than at the same time in 2006. Sea and air arrivals are up on 2006 figures by 27,290 and 12,600 respectively.
Referring to the 6.5 per cent increase in air arrivals over the previous year, Mr. Clifford said it would be tempting to take credit for the positive news, but the reality is that arrival numbers are influenced by a number of factors, many outside of the Government’s control.
‘The Government takes the lead role in the marketing and promotion of the destination, generating awareness of and demand for the Cayman Islands vacation experience; however our results reflect the combination of the Government and private sector working together.’
Although he expects Cayman Airways’ new JFK New York route, which began on 23 June, to help boost air-arrivals going forward, Mr. Clifford said increased air arrivals in June had been recorded across the three major markets; the US, Europe and Canada.
‘The profile of the Cayman Islands visitor has been relatively stable as reflected in our immigration data and exit surveys,’ Mr. Clifford explained.
‘The United States continues to account for roughly 80 per cent of our visitors, although Europe and Canada are showing strong growth as well.’
Although he believes the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative is having a negative impact on travel to the Caribbean, Mr. Clifford said the Cayman Islands are performing quite favourably compared to other Caribbean neighbours in 2007.
‘Last month the US Government relaxed the restrictions in light of the backlog of applications for passports – a move welcomed by the Caribbean tourism industry,’ he said.
‘The Cayman Islands continues to educate potential travellers and travel agents about the WHTI.
‘While the Cayman Islands believes a level playing field of applying the same requirements to all forms of travel and to all countries within the Western Hemisphere is ultimately in the best interest of fair trade and effective security, we will continue to use public education and effective promotions as a way of successfully tackling the challenges posed by WHTI to the region.’
Looking forward, Mr. Clifford is predicting relatively good arrival figures for July, following by a softening of business in August as children return to school.
‘September is as usual a soft month and the Government and private sector is focused on stimulating business for the mid-October through mid-December period, where travellers seem more open to travel. The holiday season has strong forecasts and we should do well over the Christmas/New Year’s period.’
Mr. Clifford took the opportunity to thank the private sector for its continued responsiveness to the market and their proactive approach to putting together special rates and packages.
‘Cayman Summer Splash, a great summer programme with special offers and attractive packages from the private sector, which the Government has been promoting since March in order to generate summer travel, is an example of Government partnering with the private sector,’ Mr. Clifford said.