Today’s Editorial July 14: Tourism in transition

The announcement that the Courtyard Marriott will close down for at least a year to revamp the hotel is a further sign Cayman is transitioning into a higher-end tourism destination.

This change is happening despite mixed messages from the government about what kind of tourism market Cayman should be.

Officially, Minister of Tourism Charles Clifford has stated that Cayman needs to concentrate on the higher end of the tourism market, saying we need quality not quantity when it come to tourists.

At the same time however, he’s announced plans for a major infrastructure project to facilitate cruise tourism and sanctioned the spending of a major chunk of the Department of Tourism’s marketing budget on a boxing event that has a viewing demographic that’s made up primarily of 18- to 34-year-old males who aren’t, for the most part, inclined to fine dining at five-star hotels.

Despite the seemingly conflicted tourism strategies in government, the private sector seems to know what it wants to do. Plans for new hotels or condotels are all for luxury properties that cater to the high-end tourism market. The revamped Courtyard Marriott will also cater to a higher end of the tourism market.

In the meantime, Cayman has seen its supply of lower-cost hotel rooms dwindle over the past five years, as the Sleep Inn, Treasure Island, Indies Suites and the Hyatt Regency have all either closed or changed from hotel properties.

With the shortage of affordable rooms, the rising costs of goods and services here, and the poor economy in the United States, many of the people who used to vacation in the Cayman Islands can no longer afford to come here. Almost by default, then, tourism in Cayman is transitioning to a higher-end market.

Unfortunately, outside of perhaps the restaurant industry, Cayman’s tourism product isn’t generally positioned to serve the higher-end tourism market.

Shopping and attractions jammed with cruise tourists have stay-over tourists wanting to stay put at luxury properties that are in short supply here.

Government red tape has delayed two luxury ownership rental properties in the Eastern districts and plans for another luxury hotel along the Queen’s Highway have also been put on hold.

Although the Courtyard Marriott will remain open through the 2008/09 tourist high season, it will close shortly afterward. Unless that loss of room availability is replaced in time for the 2009/10 high season, Cayman’s tourism industry might find itself transitioning into a lack of both quality and quantity simultaneously.

Breakout:

With the shortage of affordable rooms, the rising costs of goods and services here, and the poor economy in the United States, many of the people who used to vacation in the Cayman Islands can no longer afford to come here. Almost by default, then, tourism in Cayman is transitioning to a higher-end market.

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