CITA calls for 400k air arrivals

The magic number for Cayman Islands tourism air arrivals is 400,000 – 100,000 more than we got last year – according to President of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association Stephen Broadbelt.

cita board

Some of the members of the CITA Board for the incoming year, From L to R: Bud Johnson, Robert Hartsfield, Emma Graham-Taylor, Clifford Woods, President Stephen Broadbelt, Harry Lalli, Dan Szydlowski, Kevin Doyle, Walter Regidor, Executive Director Trina Christian. Photo: Cliodhna Doherty

Speaking at the private sector organisation’s AGM last Thursday at the Westin Hotel, Mr. Broadbelt, who was re-elected as President for a second term, said Cayman needed to get to the 400,000 figure within five years.

‘What do we need for air arrivals that can enable us to get past survival point, be able to reinvest back in our businesses, keep our rooms full, keep our restaurants full, keep our watersports operators full? What do we need?’ he asked.

The answer he came up with was 400,000 air arrivals a year.

Based on the current Cayman Islands’ room stock, Mr. Broadbelt took the total of 1,959 hotel rooms and put their occupancy at 75 per cent for two guests per room with an average stay of five nights. From this he came up with 214,511 visitors. He then took the 2,373 rooms in condos or apartments, put occupancy at 65 per cent, with two guests per room for an average stay of six nights and got a total of 187,665 visitors. Together this makes 402,175 air arrivals.

‘You can play around with the numbers as much as you like and be more conservative but we still need more than 300,000 air arrivals. 350,000 would be like a bare minimum,’ he said.

Referring to the recession, the CITA President said, ‘We’re not going to get 400,000 air arrivals in 2009, 2010, probably 2011. This is like a five-year-plan.

‘That’s something that CITA is going to be pushing government and the Department of Tourism, to start setting some goals and getting to them.’

Mr. Broadbelt spoke about the importance of market share within Caribbean tourism.

Using data available from the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, he noted that the Cayman Islands’ market share is 1.46 per cent (for air arrivals).

When he discovered this, he said, he was initially shocked.

The Cayman Islands is listed as 17th in terms of its market share within the Caribbean. The top five are the Dominican Republic (19.13 per cent), Cuba (11.29 per cent), Cancun Mexico (10.41 per cent), Jamaica (8.49 per cent) and The Bahamas (7.26 per cent).

‘We don’t want to be in the top five,’ he said. ‘The Dominican Republic is pushing four million air arrivals.’

However, he said other islands with a similar land mass, similar room stock, but a longer runway, are doing much better than Cayman is.

‘Look at Cozumel,’ he said. ‘A tiny little island – they are doing constantly over 400,000 air arrivals with less rooms.’

Commenting on the length of the runway at Owen Roberts International Airport, Mr. Broadbelt said, ‘We have, with the exception of Belize, the shortest international runway in the Caribbean.’

In terms of cruise arrivals, Cayman has almost 11 per cent of the market share in the region. It is fourth in cruise arrivals in the Caribbean behind the Bahamas, Cozumel and the US Virgin Islands.

‘We’re a major player in the cruise market in the Caribbean,’ he said.

But he questioned how many people really get off the ship. ‘Nobody really knows who gets off the ships other than the ships,’ he said.

While the Department/Ministry of Tourism has provided a figure of 90 per cent of passengers, CITA does not accept that figure. ‘It’s probably 20 per cent less than that,’ said Mr. Broadbelt.

He said if there are four or less ships in port, the number of people that get off is higher, but if there are more ships not as many people get off.

He said that the economic benefit of having more than four ships in port and the amount of people that get off is something that needs to looked at to determine what is the magic number for cruise ships.

‘One thing that we do know is that by adding berthing facilities more people will get off the ship, the flow of passengers will be more even throughout the day and the revenue for the retailers, tour operators and the businesses will go up.’

Cayman is the only significant island in the Caribbean in the top 10 list of competition that does not have berthing facilities, he said.

He warned that cruise arrivals will go as low as 800,000 if cruise berthing does not come to fruition within the next five years.