March air arrivals up

Continuing on their upward trend, air arrivals for the month of March grew by 9.3 per cent over last year, and staying on their downward trend, cruise arrivals fell by over 16 per cent.

Air arrivals for the first quarter of this year now stand at 94,650, nine per cent greater than where they were this time last year for the same period.

For the first quarter of this year cruise tourism is down 14.3 per cent, or 92,311 passengers, on last year.

At 38,425 for the month of March this year, air arrivals for that month are at their highest since 2002.

The highest air arrivals figure for March in the past nine years was pre 9/11 in 2001 when the figure was 41,588, or 7.5 per cent more.

Meanwhile, cruise visitor numbers for the month of March took a tumble of 16.1 per cent this year in comparison to last year.

March 2008s figure of 182,622 has 35,068 fewer visitors than last year’s figure of 217,690 for the equivalent month.

March 2008’s cruise passenger figure is the lowest for the month since 2003. The highest figure for March was in 2006, when there were 253,825 cruise passengers, or 28 per cent more than this past March.

Minister for Tourism Charles Clifford has said there was an artificial rise in numbers in 2006 because of Grand Cayman taking additional calls when Mexican ports were put out of commission after Hurricane Wilma, and a natural drop again thereafter.

But there has also been a decrease in demand for cruise tourism in the Caribbean since, with increased competition from other markets such as Europe and Asia.

The statistics are the most recently available from the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, available to view at

The cruise passenger statistics reflect the total number on visiting ships. According to DoT, there is an estimated 90 per cent rate of disembarkation in Grand Cayman based on estimates by the Port Authority and the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association.

In-transit passengers are included in air arrival statistics and account, on average, for one per cent of visitors. For instance, in March 465 records entered as tourists also stated a purpose of in-transit.

Explaining to the Caymanian Compass why these figures are included, the Department of Tourism noted that some of the guests recorded as in-transit overnight in the Cayman Islands before going to their final destination. ‘In line with regional guidelines, guests who overnight in a paid accommodation and spend here should be included in overall air arrival numbers.’

It said there is no way to confirm how many of the one per cent in-transit visitors overnight here compared to how many do not.