Tourism on pace to set records

Worldwide tourism is up and China is key, according to Jane van der Bol, executive director of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association.

Ms van der Bol is president-elect of the Site Florida Chapter Board of Directors of the Society of Incentive Travel Executives. Site members in the Caribbean can align their membership with the Florida Chapter.

“As an officer of the Site Florida Chapter it was my duty to attend this conference [in China] to represent the Site Florida Chapter and to promote next year’s global conference to be held in Orlando, Florida on December 7-10, 2013,” she said. “I am very excited to take the role of President next year and be on the host committee for the Global Conference with my emphasis being on education for the event. This exposure allows me to share with my industry partners, both new and old, that I represent the Cayman Islands.”

A release by the association noted that China had 1.3 billion people and the fastest-growing gross domestic product of any nation. With 40 million people travelling abroad in 2008 and expectations of 70 million travellers by 2012 – reported to be up by 30 per cent this year according to United Nations World Tourism Organization – and 100 million by 2020, it is more important now than ever to promote our beautiful islands to China, Ms van der Bol said.

Affluent middle class

She said the China market characteristics are the affluent middle class with a taste for experiencing cultural destinations and shopping. Some 16 per cent of the Chinese population is in the 15 to 25 age group and as mostly only children, she felt, they are more individualistic, adventurous and highly susceptible to Western influences.

Travelling is highly aspirational, she said, and due to the long haul trip, most Chinese tend to have an average stay of 13 to 15 days.

Even the United States market is seeing growth, said the association, with CNNMoney reporting that tourism is on pace to set a record in 2012, as tourism and related sales increased by 2.1 per cent in the second quarter, after a 4.9 per cent increase in the first quarter, according to a report from the US Department of Commerce.

“While Cayman may not yet be prepared for the Brazil, Russia, India, China traveller with signage, interpreters, tour guides and good language skills, including understanding the food, meal timing and religious preferences, we need to open our eyes to a market that is travelling and would certainly be interested in the unique experience the Cayman Islands has to offer,” Ms van der Bol said.

The World Tourism Organization predicts that people travelling abroad will reach one billion tourists by the end of this year, she said. Most of the growth came from Asia, where Japanese tourism has rebounded from last year’s earthquake and also growth has come from China’s increasing middle class.

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