Air arrivals for year up 9 per cent

Tourist air arrivals for the year 2007 are nine per cent up on 2006 while cruise arrivals finished 11 per cent down on the previous year.

The air arrivals total for 2007 stands at 291,503, just 2.8 per cent down on the target for this year, set by the Department of Tourism earlier this year, of 300,000.

Air arrivals have been recovering for the past three years after Hurricane Ivan damaged 90 per cent of buildings on Grand Cayman in September 2004 and hampered tourism.

The total air arrivals figure for 2007 is only marginally down on the year 2003 (0.7 per cent) and 2002 (3.7 per cent). These years, pre Hurricane Ivan, tourism had also suffered, post 9/11, but was making a recovery before Ivan struck.

The stronger years of 2000 and 2001 remain well ahead, with 17.68 per cent more air arrivals and 12.75 per cent more air arrivals than 2007 respectively.

In 2007 visitors from the US increased over the previous year by 6.7 per cent, those from Europe by 16.9 per cent, and those from Canada by 16.4 per cent.

The month of December in 2007 was a good one for air arrivals, at 30,255, up 10.5 per cent on 2006 which had seen 27,386 arrivals.

December 2007’s figure is better than all years bar two in the past eight: 2003 (only marginally ahead with just under two per cent more visitors) and the year 2000.

According to a recent letter from the Director of Tourism Pilar Bush the air arrival results are hard earned in the face of several negative factors including the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which came into effect in January 2007, the worsening US economy and intensifying competition from a number of aggressive Caribbean destinations and US domestic destinations.

Cruise arrivals for the year end stand at 1.7 million, down 11 per cent on last year’s all-time high for the Cayman Islands of 1.9 million visitors.

Minister for Tourism Charles Clifford has said that while the drop is a decrease of over 200,000 passengers from the prior years that the sum is still a respectable, if not enviable total. ‘Our projections for next year calls for modest growth but this is dependent upon any number of issues, most of which fall outside of the Cayman Islands’ strict control’.

The year 2007 is also down 4. 6 per cent on the year 2005, at 1.79 million cruise visitors, and down 5.7 per cent on 2003, at 1.8 million visitors.

The month of December 2007, with 162,029 cruise passengers, showed a decline of 22.93 per cent on 2006’s December figure of 210,247. The December 2007 figure is the lowest for cruise tourism for that month in the past six years.