Tourism stats traveling in right direction

But high ticket prices aren’t helping

Tourist statistics for the first
half of 2010 are improved compared to 2009, but are still slightly lower than
the same period of 2008.

According to figures released by
the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, a total of 1,028,410 people came to
Cayman by sea and air between January and the end of June this year. In 2009,
1,001,592 visited. That’s an improvement of 26,818, or 2.6 per cent. However,
in 2008 Cayman recorded 1,079,795 visitors. That’s a sliver under 5 per cent
more than this year, or 51,385 people.

The figures for the second quarter
of 2010 show improvement compared to 2009, led by the cruise sector. In total,
394,304 cruisers came between April and June 2010 whilst last year 381,068
people arrived, an increase of 3.5 per cent. When compared to 2008, the cruise
sector has improved by 13.4 per cent and 46,823 passengers.

Air arrivals improved by just under
1 per cent, with 74,229 coming in the second quarter overall as compared to
73,560 in 2009. Compared to the second quarter of 2008, however, air arrivals
have decreased by 11.2 per cent or 83,671 passengers.

Second quarter results for Cayman
were impacted by the Icelandic volcanic ash incident plus a series of strikes
by British Airways cabin crew which led to the cancellation of a significant
number of flights in late May and early June. There are no available figures
for how many passengers re-booked through other carriers. The cancellation of
two cruise calls in May meant Cayman lost around 5,000 potential visitors.

Summer season

Hotels are reporting reasonable
results for the summer season so far but there are distinct local issues with
attracting long-haul visitors to Cayman, according to Melissa Ladley of the
Ritz-Carlton-Grand Cayman.

“Summer bookings at The
Ritz-Carlton-Grand Cayman are essentially flat to 2009. Our main challenge in
building the summer business has not been competitive hotel offers but rather
the high cost of airfare to the Cayman Islands. Our shops of other Caribbean
destinations have shown airfare discrepancies of more than $200 for the same
airlines with an equal number of connections.

“We’ve compensated to a degree with
some attractive value adds for families. The destination promotion, Summer
Splash, has particularly rich offerings this year with Sea School aboard
Atlantis with SpongeBob SquarePants, and we’re offering a complimentary kids
meal plan with regular leisure bookings. But when you’re looking at an $800
difference in airfares for a family of four, the competitive landscape is far
from a level playing field,” she said.

Thomas Mason of Comfort Suites said
that the hotel had experienced a fairly reasonable July which was testament to
the tourism sector’s continued work to try and maintain market share and
provide an excellent guest experience.

“Although the rates are not as high
as we would like, the island has maintained occupancy, and I think that’s full
credit to all the businesses involved in tourism. We’ve created this value
perception that guests really enjoy,” noted Mr. Mason.

At the Reef in the East End,
representative Tom McCallum said that the general feeling across the hotel
sector, as with the Reef, was that occupancies were picking up for June and
into July and August but at the expense of rate with discounts having to be
made to entice visitors.

“Rate pressure is intense. the Reef
finds that if we sell out of our lowest rate rooms – they do sell first,
naturally – fewer enquiries book when we only have the higher rates and larger
rooms available. Everyone is chasing the best deal. Average length of stay in
the summer is trending up. A thought on that is that with lower rates but still
relatively high cost of getting here for families in particular, people are
staying a few days longer to get best value from their vacation dollar.

He said that staycations were a
significant and strongly growing part of the business and that destination
weddings continued to deliver excellent results, increasingly in the slower
months. Bookings for destination weddings are already very strong for 2011,
noted Mr. McCallum.

Regional statistics

Statistics released by the
Caribbean Tourism Industry for the period of January to May, 2010, reveal that
Dominican Republic, with 1,850,412 air visitors, was the most popular Caribbean
destination and showed a 2 per cent increase over 2009. Second most-visited was
Cuba with 1,225,717, up 1.2 per cent compared to the previous year.

Cruise passenger arrivals put
Cozumel in pole position with 1,255,869 recorded arrivals during that period
which represented a 29.5 per cent increase. US Virgin Islands posted 916,388
arrivals.

Differences in reporting methods by
different countries mean that there is no data available after March for
Bahamas, but between January and March the stated figure was over a million
cruisers. St Maarten, which reported their figures up to the end of April only,
said that they had 685,801 cruisers up to that point.

The United Nations World Tourism
Organisation’s World Tourism Barometer publication said that international
tourism has rebounded, according to arrivals, receipts and expenditure data
provided by more than 120 destination countries.

In the July issue of the publication,
the organisation said that worldwide growth was 7 per cent up until the end of
April, although this figure was very uneven with Middle Eastern and Asian
emerging economies up by 9 per cent whilst established and ‘advanced economies’
were up in general by 5 per cent. Indeed, many destinations showed sluggish
growth. The Caribbean growth compared to the same period of 2009 was 4 per
cent.

Experts on their panel of tourism,
comprising 330 specialists in 100 countries, said they felt positive about the
second half of 2010.

LOCALTourismstatsSTORY

Tourism figures are slightly up compared to last year.
Photo: Joe Shooman
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