Increased airlift and sports tourism were signs that Cayman’s tourism product had stayed the course during the financial crisis in 2010.
Marketing strategies and budget cuts also took place, including the culling of the Jazz Fest, explained Premier McKeeva Bush in a speech to the Legislative Assembly on Friday, 14 January.
“By any measure, Madam Speaker, 2010 was a challenging year, but as with all challenges, it also brought opportunity and achievements,” he said.
During the speech, Mr. Bush compared 2010’s tourism results with 2009 and said that the Department of Tourism had worked closer with Cayman Airways and the private sector to offer short-term promotions designed to increase visitor numbers. An objective had been to achieve 300,000 air arrivals and specifically to grow visitation from Europe by 5 per cent and from Canada by 10 per cent. To that end, there was a resumption of Cayman Airways services to Chicago and Washington, DC,
“Both Washington, DC and the Chicago area are proven, key gateways for thousands of visitors to our Islands. In the case of Washington, DC, the new service provided travellers from the northeastern region of the US with an alternative option to the existing service out of New York City’s JFK airport, and the Chicago flight opened up the possibilities for visitors from the Midwest.
“In addition to the new Cayman Airways flights, Delta Airlines and WestJet also began offering services into Grand Cayman. Delta introduced a weekly non-stop service from JFK which is timed to allow for European connections and WestJet introduced three flights a week from Toronto. This additional airlift is tantamount to being a vote of confidence in the Cayman Islands by some of the world‘s leading airlines and has increased our capacity,” said the Premier.
He added that United Airlines will be starting a Washington, DC, service which will add further to the air capacity for 2011.
Mr. Bush said that several high-profile sporting events took place during 2010 and that the benefits had been noted, such as attracting an audience that fit the Cayman target market.
“So far, expectations in terms of benefits to the destination and the potential growth of this sector have been exceeded and Department of Tourism anticipates that this trend will continue for the foreseeable future,” he added.
The sinking of the Kittiwake also brought a lot of media attention, which when translated into advertising equivalency for paid space on a major US network would be millions of dollars.
The Department of Tourism is also launching a new campaign aimed at United States visitors this month, revealed Mr. Bush.
“CaymanKind… refers, not just to the three islands of Cayman, but to the entire Cayman experience. CaymanKind encompasses everything that makes the Cayman Islands unique – from the friendliness of our people and our rich cultural heritage to our cosmopolitan style, stunning natural beauty and warm welcome, which we extend to those who visit our shores,” said Mr Bush.
He said that priorities for the tourism industry in 2011 are growth, sustainability and economic viability, but that competition is increasing from new destinations in Latin America and the Gulf States.
“The playing field is likely to become much tougher than it’s ever been. In addition, we can be certain that consumers will be researching more, spending smarter and demanding more value for money which is why the Department of Tourism is placing emphasis on improving customer service standards and enhancing the visitor experience,” he added.