The South American market is Cayman’s ‘jewel in the back pocket’, according to Acting Director of Tourism Shomari Scott.
Speaking at a tourism update meeting recently in Pedro Castle, Mr. Scott said the department was looking at South America, particularly the strong economy of Brazil, with a view to attracting more tourists.
Responding to a question from the audience at the event regarding the Asian and specifically Chinese tourism market, Mr. Scott said the Premier McKeeva Bush had noted the government had been to a conference in China in order to see if it ‘made sense.’ “This is in its preliminary stages,” Mr. Scott said.
He said the marketing budget for Cayman’s biggest market – the United States – was split to the tune of 40 per cent in the eight key cities and 60 per cent nationally. He said there had also been co-operation with both Air Canada and WestJet in assisting with marketing.
Mr. Scott also highlighted the marketing role of the tourism department, what Cayman’s target market was and how advertisements, social media and events helped raise the profile of Cayman.
Mr. Bush praised the work of the tourism department’s Canadian office as he revealed that air arrivals up to the end of October had risen by 37.2 per cent from that country.
“We are looking to get more airlift out of the West of Canada,” he said.
The premier alluded to Calgary as a potential hub, possibly with the assistance of WestJet, and reminded attendees of Cayman’s long-standing relationship with charter flights from Vancouver through Nevada as long ago as the early 1960s.
In general, stay-over numbers had been positive for the Cayman Islands during 2011, particularly when put into context on a Caribbean basis. Mr. Bush said of 28 countries, only four – including Cayman – had posted an increase of 6 per cent during 2011 year-on-year, while numbers were still tracking positively.
Cruise figures disturbing
However, cruise numbers were not so positive, he conceded, with a downturn of 12.4 per cent on a year-on-year basis up to the end of October, 2011.
“These figures are disturbing but should not come as a surprise,” he said, adding the country had long known a decline was on the cards.
He highlighted the various attempts to get cruise berthing projects started since 2003 and the various difficulties that had presented themselves including Hurricane Ivan, rejected proposals, lack of funds and land lease lengths as issues that had to be surmounted.
“In the meantime, Labadee, Bahamas, Roatan and Jamaica have completed facilities and now we have to catch up. That is why we are losing today,” Mr. Bush said.
He said the Red Bay idea was something he did not have an opinion on but that Cayman ‘had to build where we are now’. Given the millions of dollars invested in George Town, the country could not shift the port from there.
Mr. Bush said North Sound was the best-sheltered location for an all-weather port, followed by South Sound but that he ‘had to do what I have to do’ to get the berthing built in George Town.
He said the capital development offered by previous potential contractors GLF would have been at 7.5 to 8.5 per cent, DECCO at 8.5 to 10 per cent but that the Chinese Harbour Engineering Company’s rates were cheap at between 1 and 3 per cent for capital costs.
“This saves the country a tremendous amount in the long run,” he said.
He said enshrined in the Memorandum of Understanding was an opportunity for Caymanians to gain equity in the project but did not elaborate further.
Finally, Mr. Bush said the Cayman Islands continued to receive many tourism accolades and is still voted one of the world’s top destinations. He said local company Living the Dream Divers had been recognised by TripAdvisor for the world’s top adventure tour, and that the Cayman Islands had also been honoured by scuba and wedding publications.
During 2012, concluded Mr. Scott, there will be regular public meetings held, perhaps monthly, in order to keep people abreast of all developments in the tourism industry.