Cayman offers deals in tough market

Cayman’s tourism industry is offering some hot deals during these hard economic times but trying to avoid simply slashing prices across the board.

While Jamaica is reported to be having a record tourist season for its numbers of stopover visitors despite the global economic crisis, Grand Cayman’s air arrivals have been falling.

But Jamaica appears to be slashing its hotel prices, something that The Cayman Islands is slow to do, while instead concentrating on offering value for money to customers without the discount being too extreme.

Executive Director with the Cayman Islands Tourism Association Trina Christian shed some light on the issue recently having just returned from a meeting in Orlando with other Caribbean colleagues in related job positions.

She explained that while some destinations may have higher arrival numbers, they are probably getting a less than average price for their room nights.

‘Destinations that are seeing increases in air arrivals – their average daily rate is down. They are bringing in the arrivals but what they are getting per room night is significantly lower.’

Forced to offer huge discounts to attract bookings, some destinations may be seeing lower revenues even in those cases where arrivals increased.

On the Jamaica tourist board’s website they advertise ‘Save up to 60 per cent on Jamaican hotels.’

The Minister of Tourism in Jamaica, Edmund Bartlett recently said that this winter season has been Jamaica’s best ever, despite the global financial crisis. Stopover arrivals were up in January by 4.2 per cent, the best figures ever for that month, which the Minister attributed that to the success of the Jamaica Jazz and Blues festival and the intense advertising and marketing they have been doing, said The Gleaner newspaper.

There was also growth in February and March, although figures are not yet posted. The Minister attributed March’s figures to spring break, according to the Jamaica Observer.

For 2009 so far (January and February) Cayman’s air arrivals are down 11.3 per cent.

Acting Director of Tourism Shomari Scott notes that research shows that the global economic recession is having an impact on international travel. Consumer confidence has fallen, booking windows have shrunk and even the most affluent consumer is looking for a deal.

‘Though the Cayman Islands and Jamaica finished 2008 3.9 per cent up over 2007, Jamaica has bucked the trend somewhat in 2009 by recording positive air arrivals. The Cayman Islands is faring better than most of its competitors in the Caribbean however – a fact told to us frequently by our international travel partners.’

Mr. Scott noted that since last summer, The Jamaica Tourist Board has been aggressively pushing deeply-discounted offers/discounts/packages, with a lot of private sector members doing the same.

‘Jamaica has big private sector players, specifically Sandals, who are heavily advertising. Some Sandals resorts are being offered at 65 per cent off.’

Mr. Scott noted that in a recent article in Travel Weekly about spring break travel for college students, it was reported that Acapulco’s popularity dropped drastically, and Jamaica picked up many of those bookings, largely because there are more value options in Jamaica than in Acapulco.

He added that this past January, Jamaica hosted its jazz festival which is being credited with a big bump in arrivals in ’09.

The general feel from the recent meeting Mrs Christian attended was that destinations in general are not encouraging properties to greatly reduce their rates.

‘Destinations are trying to not have their partners slash their rates because it’s then hard to bring them back up,’ she said.

Sandals all-inclusive resorts in Jamaica are slashing prices.

Sandals Grande Ocho Rios is currently offering up to 60 per cent off for bookings made before April 09 with travel between now and the end of August and up to 65 per cent off for vacations between September ’09 and May ’10. For US$130 per person per night guests can enjoy free dining, premium drinks, complimentary golf, diving and watersports.

Mr. Scott explained that while traditionally, tourism in the Caribbean is measured by arrival numbers, it is important to consider other measurements such as average spend to get the complete picture.

‘The Cayman Islands has few all-inclusive destinations so average spend is likely to be much higher when compared to other more mass market destinations.’

He also referred to the Cayman Islands having a number of excellent deals in the marketplace including Summer Splash and some resort specials.

Cayman’s Summer Splash promotion is this year offering more than ever. From June 1 to September 7, 2009 kids under 12 fly free on Cayman Airways from Miami, Tampa or New York, stay free at participating hotels/condos, play and eat free at participating restaurants and attractions. The whole family will also experience savings: book a minimum five-night stay and get the fifth night free.

When a family pre-purchases a dive package, teens dive free (12-17 years of age) when diving with a full paying adult and 50 per cent is taken off a night dive with the purchase of a four-day dive package.

Alongside this, some examples of good offers from local properties include Coral Stone Club’s offer which is good for travel from 19 April through 18 December, 2009. The 30-unit vacation rental resort on Seven Mile Beach has launched a promotion offering a sixth night free at their three-bed condos.

At the Reef Resort, book by 30 April for vacations from May through 18 December, and guests receive 10 per cent off on one to three-night stays, 20 per cent off on four to six-nights or 25 per cent off on seven or more nights. The offer includes breakfast.

For their all-inclusive rates they are offering 10 per cent off on three to four-night stays and every fifth night free on five plus nights.

At the Westin Casuarina Resort and Spa for the Mother’s Day Weekend and for Memorial Day Weekend (both in May) they are offering rates as low as US$159 and up per room. From June they are also offering the same special rate through summer.

Ms Christian said CITA and DoT have teamed up to list all the specials available around the island on the DoT’s website,