Today’s Editorial January 03: The good and bad of tourism

When looking at Cayman’s tourism situation, it depends on one’s viewpoint when deciding if the glass is half full or half empty.

The good news is that 2007 air arrivals were up to their highest point since 2002; the bad news is that Cayman will not – when the final figures are released – hit the Department of Tourism’s goal of 300,000 this year. And that goal was considerably less than the 354,087 air arrivals in 2000, the last-pre 9/11 year.

The good news is that when all the figures are added, between 1.7 and 1.75 million cruise passengers visited our shores in 2007; the bad news is that fewer cruise passengers came here than in any year since 2003 with the exception of 2004, when the last four months of the year were severely impacted by Hurricane Ivan. Despite that, 1.69 million cruise passengers still came here that year.

But then even that bit of bad news might be good news to some people; from as far back as 2002 there were calls for limiting the number of cruise passengers to keep the quality of the tourism product from eroding to the point that it affected stay-over tourism. In the viewpoint of some people – particularly many return stay-over visitors – 1.7 million cruise passengers are still too many.

And while it is therefore arguable whether Cayman’s figures for cruise passengers was actually good or bad in 2007, there is the possibility that the figures will continue to decline unless a berthing dock is built in the near future. It is well documented that the cruise lines and the passengers themselves prefer berthing, and many other destinations are giving their customers what they want. What happens if Cayman does not do the same?

The good and bad news in tourism doesn’t stop there. It is good news that Cayman has made an effort to expand its tourism product offerings. But it is bad news that one of the new offerings – the government-owned Boatswain’s Beach attraction – is losing $500,000 a month, down from a million dollars a month.

It is also good news that there are several new luxury hotels or condotels on the slate, but it is bad news that Cayman lost several mid-price accommodations since Hurricane Ivan, including the Hyatt Regency Hotel, brand name and all.

It is true that the news about tourism in the Cayman Islands is not all bad. But while different people might see Cayman’s tourism glass as half full or half empty, no one can argue that that glass doesn’t have a lot of room for improvement.