After a difficult year, there may
be an upturn in tourist numbers, according to indications received by Cayman
officials attending this year’s Caribbean Marketplace conference.
Speaking to the Caymanian Compass,
Acting Director of Tourism Shomari Scott explained that whilst economic downturn
of 2009 saw the tourism industry take a massive hit in Cayman, it also
presented the opportunity for government departments and the private sector to
strengthen relationships in moving toward recovery.
“We ended 2008 five per cent up in visitor arrivals
over the previous year, trending 10 per cent up but then there was of course
the financial tsunami and the last five months of 2009 tanked.”
As a result, the contraction in all
sectors hit Cayman as hard as everywhere else and tricky times followed with
visitors asking for added value, cut-price rooms and a shortening of the booking
window – the time between booking and arrival.
However, in the face of adversity,
said Mr. Scott, increased collaboration has cemented relationships between
hoteliers, tour operators and the government to the ultimate benefit of all
“It works; 2009 was a bad year but
it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. We’re seeing a carry-over into 2010 in
that everybody’s working more cohesively together and it’s starting to increase
bookings, which is a good sign,” he noted.
Mr. Scott and other officials from
the Department of Tourism were at Caribbean Marketplace, a two-day trade conference
held in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The Caribbean Marketplace event gave
officials the opportunity to visibly promote Cayman’s immediate future as well
as discover trends in the industry as a whole.
It was an opportunity to discuss
strategy with private sector providers such as hoteliers, airlines and tour
operators from all parts of the globe. Reports have been positive, Mr. Scott said.
“Whether it’s a wholesale partner
like Travel Impressions and Gogo or the travel arm of the airlines like MLT,
Continental or Delta vacations, everyone we’ve spoken to say that they are
trending up for the first few months of the year and the year as a whole.
Cayman is also marketing itself
through a series of promotional innovations designed to ensure visibility
throughout the year. Most imminently is a new promotion called Get Warm, which
is a designated website promotion that is based round visitors getting a fifth
night free at participating hotels plus a free visit to Stingray City.
“When you read the comments for the
Cayman Islands one of the attractions that always comes to the top is the
experience had at Stingray City. We’re the only destination that can speak of
this natural phenomenon so why don’t we use this more overtly so we can drive
business to the Cayman Islands? It’s a great [asset] to have,” said Mr. Scott.
Get Warm marks the first time that
the Department of Tourism has embarked on a specific winter-months promotion.
It is running online through social media including Twitter and Facebook and
has viral elements to try and capture a significant online presence.
There’s also a competition called That’s So
Cold, where Northern visitors can send in shots of themselves in the cold.
Website visitors can vote for their favourite and whoever gets the most votes
will win tickets to Cayman.
Plans for the summer include a
continuation of fifth night free plus a promotion based round a relationship
with the TV cartoon channel, Nickelodeon. It is a way to get through to an
essential demographic, said the director of tourism
“In the summer we get the majority
of our families and the ‘nag factor’ is that 80 per cent of families listen to
their kids as to where they should go for their vacation experience. So
there’ll be advertising throughout the US but specifically through Nickelodeon.”
The promotion involves a special
sea school for children led by popular Nickelodeon character SpongeBob
“We’ll bring in Cayman Traditional
Arts to show the kids how to make thatched ropes, how to catch birds and let
them go afterwards, they’ll go and play with the turtles.
“SpongeBob will come out and give
them their certificate and the kids graduate from SpongeBob Sea School. They
have a great time, get their photo taken with him – it’s a great way to drive
families through this summer season as well as all of the [other] great offers
on board,” he continued.
There will be incentives through
Cayman Airways to coincide with the promotion, which will be revealed later in
Throughout 2010 there will be a
series of what Mr. Scott termed ‘marquee events,’ including Cayman Cookout,
Taste of Cayman, Batabano, Jazz Fest and Pirates Week. The government
department will be throwing its weight behind all events as an adjunct to any
and all extant marketing strategies.
Although the worst of the financial
downturn may be passing, it is vital to remain pragmatic, said Mr. Scott.
“We understand, looking at the
economic forecasts, that it will be a slow recovery. But if the Cayman Islands
can give good customer service and keep the customer base it had previously,
plus be creative and get promotions out there ahead of time and try and think
creatively to differentiate ourselves from our competition then we should be OK
“They say that there’s a light at
the end of the tunnel – it doesn’t seem to be a train,” he said.