July arrivals best since 2004

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July saw the biggest influx of
visitors to Cayman in six years, according to figures released by the Department
of Tourism.

A total of 144,674 people came to
Cayman by cruise and air during July, which compared favourably to the same
month every year since 2004, when 156,105 arrived.

Cruise ship arrivals were at the
highest since 2006. This year, 115,471 visited, while the same month four years
ago was a shade higher at 115,483. On a ten-year basis, 2010’s arrivals are
fifth best for July. Peak years were 2002-2004, all of which had 120,000 or
more. The July results represent a 6 per cent increase on a
year-on-year comparison.

Air arrivals comprised 29,203 of
the total, which is also the fifth best in ten years. Another high point came
in 2008 when 30,008 arrived by air in July 2008, but before that the best year
was July 2004, which showed 33,118 arriving through Owen Roberts International
Airport. The United States provided the largest proportion of visitors,
comprising 24,078 of the total.

Geographically, all areas of the
United States showed an increase totalling 17.5 per cent compared to 2009.
Biggest gains were in the Midwest, with 3,437 arrivals, an increase of 31.8 per
cent over the same month last year. The Northeast, which brought 7,780
visitors, was 24 per cent higher than 2009. Arrivals from the United Kingdom
and Ireland fell very marginally, with 1,147 visitors this year compared to
1,149 in 2009. All visitors to Cayman by air recorded by the Cayman Islands
Immigration Department are counted as tourist arrivals for the purposes of
their statistics.

Shorter stay, rates slashed

Estimated hotel and apartment
occupancy rates during July showed 70.5 per cent occupancy in hotels and 47.7
per cent in apartments. Hotel occupancy so far in 2010 is 71 per cent.
Apartment statistics cover condos, villas, cottage colonies, guest houses and
bed and breakfasts, and so far in 2010 the estimated figure is at 46 per cent.
Average length of stay at hotels in July was 4.4 days, marginally the shortest
recorded stay in 12 years. Apartment stays were also down to 6.6 days compared
to 2009 figures of 6.8 days on average. The previous shortest stays were
recorded in 2006 when the average stay at an apartment was 6.4 days.

Professionals in the apartment
sector have noted that the triple trend of last-minute bookings, shorter stays
and deal requests remain the order of the day. Penny Cumber of Cayman Villas
said that this triple whammy, which began last year at the height of the
recession, made it difficult to predict what the rest of the summer might hold.
Rates have also been deeply discounted across the Caribbean region, she noted.

“Last year we were thinking that if
we put summer rates down, how would we make any money. But other islands are
slashing their rates across the Caribbean and 50 per cent seems to be pretty
normal – a huge cut. Unless it’s a lengthy stay you can’t make any money, but
those who slashed rates last year were the ones with the occupancy.

“It’s the quietest part of the
summer and people do slash prices and [offer deals] such as stay for five
nights and pay for four; that’s now gone down to stay for four and pay for
three nights,” said Ms Cumber, who added that in order to survive the difficult
season, hotels and apartments are now concentrating on the staycation market.

She added that regular rates would
recover somewhat by Thanksgiving, but even during the high season of the winter
months people are demanding deals, even at the higher end of the market.

“If you look at what else is
happening in the Caribbean, you either join them or sink. Even at the $1,000 or
$2,000 a night band, people are saying they can take their private plane to
another island and get a much bigger house for the same price,” she said. She
added that it is hard to predict the rest of the season since people can come
in very late and boost occupancy with last-minute bookings.

Length of stay compared to 2009 is
virtually the same, added consultant Tom McCallum, who explained that arrival
statistics correlated with occupancy, but room rate is a vital part of the
equation in analysing tourism’s true impact.

“We’re dealing with a changeable
beast right now, and though occupancy numbers are up, the rates will tell the
story.

You can have 10,000 more arrivals
but if they’re paying half as much per room, then the island is benefitting,
but the hotels are getting killed,” said Mr. McCallum, who added that the
bottom line would also be affected by increased costs including work permits.

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July saw the biggest influx of visitors to Grand Cayman.
Photo: File
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3 COMMENTS

  1. I did notice on my return flight to Cayman 2-weeks ago, that out of the entire flight, only about 4 of us went through the Cayman Resident line, whereas the rest of the flight were all visitors! Hopefully a trend that continues for the better of the tourism industry.

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