Air arrivals in the Cayman Islands in 2012 were the highest in 11 years, while cruise arrivals were up on last year’s numbers, tourism minister Cline Glidden said Thursday.
Last year, 321,650 tourists flew into Cayman, an increase of 12,558 people or 4.1 per cent over air arrivals in 2011.
December posted the highest number of arrivals for the month of December in 12 years, with 35,408 visitors flying in – an increase of 6.2 per cent over December 2011.
Mr. Glidden said the air arrival numbers had “exceeded all expectations”.
Cruise arrivals were also up, with 1,570,370 people arriving by ship last year, an increase of 7.6 per cent on 2011.
However, Mr. Glidden pointed out that, while the cruise numbers were up year on year, 2011 had been “a very bad year” for cruise arrivals. “Obviously, we’re still concerned about the number even though we have an increase in 2012,” he said.
Cruise arrivals of slightly more than 1.4 million in 2011 were the worst seen in Cayman since 2001.
While the numbers may be cause to celebrate, indications are that cruise numbers are likely to fall again over this year, following the announcement by one major cruise line, Carnival Cruise Lines, that it would not be bringing some of its ships to Grand Cayman, reallocating them instead to Roatan, Honduras and European destinations. This means that about a quarter of a million fewer passengers are expected to come by cruise ship to Cayman this year.
The overall visitor numbers are up, despite cost cutting within the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, the minister said.
Mr. Glidden said the Cayman Islands had experienced an increase in stay-over visitors for 32 of the last 36 months, at a time when the islands’ primary source markets, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Europe, were continuing to experience tough economic conditions and, in general, travel had contracted as consumers were tightening their belts.
The minister credited the stay-over numbers on new routes from Cayman Airways, realigned business objectives and research done by the Department of Tourism to better understand factors influencing travel. He also cited a close working relationship with the Cayman Islands Tourism Association and other local tourism industry partners to develop travel initiatives and promotions.
The increases occurred while the Department of Tourism was undergoing cost cutting measures. Mr. Glidden said the department’s budget had been cut by 35 per cent over the past four years. “We’re spending 35 per cent less money and the results have been the best they’ve been in 12 years,” he said, congratulating the Director of Tourism Shomari Scott on the latest number.
Mr. Scott said he’d had feedback from hotels and restaurants in the Cayman Islands, which described January or December last year as the best months they’d had since their opened their establishment.
“To understand that some of these properties were having their best months ever, not just in 11 years, is also testament to the fact that people are coming through the door, coming off airlines, coming to restaurants,” Mr. Scott said.
He urged smaller businesses that had not benefited from the increase in tourism numbers to look at how they promoted themselves, saying they should utilise Trip Advisor and their own websites and marketing.