Cayman’s cruise sector still lagging
More than 43,000 people visited the Cayman Islands by commercial passenger plane in March, the highest figure reported by local officials since the government began releasing these statistics in 2000.
The air arrivals totalled 43,327, according to figures released by the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism. Shomari Scott, director of tourism, expressed the department’s delight.
“The Department of Tourism is very pleased that following best year in over a decade in 2012, positive arrival statistics have continued into the first quarter of 2013. These results are the culmination of much hard work and many entities working together, which ultimately has brought about our continued success.
“[T]o mitigate the effects of the recession, the Department of Tourism realigned its strategic objectives and made tough decisions, which enabled us to focus on the projects and strategies that would help us to achieve our goals. As a consequence, the increases in stay over arrivals are due to a number of significant factors,” he said.
These included focusing on target markets most likely to deliver; the Caymankind initiative, which has won two industry awards; bringing additional capacity through new airlift; enhancing digital marketing; working with brands including BRIDES, Push Across America and others; partnering with companies like Energizer, Orbitz and National Geographic.
“[The] Department of Tourism is also spearheading the T’anks A Lot promotion where one lucky dive operator will get to drive a Cayman Porsche for a year,” Mr. Scott said.
He added that the department had worked closely with the private sector including the Cayman Islands Tourism Association in order to deliver value-added promotions to the marketplace. Mr. Scott concluded that despite the past three years’ positive results, the department vowed not to become complacent.
Outgoing President of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association Harry Lalli said Easter fell relatively early, during March, and that had helped boost stay-over numbers.
“The hotels also had some incredible numbers with the group business,” he noted. “Also, we saw a bit of life in Spring Break again. We are seeing the results of the new airlift into Cayman, which is a very crucial part of the equation. It was the first full season with JetBlue.”
The partnership between the private sector and Department of Tourism was working well, Mr. Lalli said.
“The private sector has stood up to provide a superior product. All the awards including best beaches, etcetera, have definitely helped. The Department of Tourism is doing a great job marketing the islands. With those factors we got a record breaking March. Our numbers have gone up each month this year so far compared to last year with the stay-over market. People want to come visit us.”
Cruise arrivals figures, however, continued their downward trend. In March, 2012, 191,807 people visited the Cayman Islands, but this was reduced to 155,529 in March, 2013. That’s a 18.9 per cent drop. The year-to-date comparison for the first quarter shows a 3.8 per cent decrease in cruise arrivals, from 553,347 in January-March 2012 to 532,263 in the same period of 2013. This comes despite a bumper January, 2013 when 215,890 arrived on Cayman shores – the second highest January performance in 13 years. However, February 2013s 160,844 fell behind February 2012’s 175,055.
Mr. Lalli said that some of this drop could be explained by a mixture of inclement weather and technical issues. For example, in March Carnival Legend had missed three Friday calls in a row due to reported propulsion problems and now will not be back in Cayman until October.
“We had to move to Spotts in beginning of March where we lost Disney that day. We lost Holland America line also on 14 March, again I assume we had to be in Spotts due to inclement weather in George Town.
“Again on 26 March, we missed ships in the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines’ Jewel of the Sea, Holland America and Carnival Legend. If you add the number of people we missed from the above that is 16,702 passengers.
“If those ships [had] come in we would have reached 172,231. Still a drop but not as bad as 155,000. The drop does affect retailers, bus and taxi drivers and water sports companies,” Mr. Lalli said.
Facts and figures
The biggest stay-over market was the United States, which provided 35,086, a nearly 11 per cent increase on the 31,665 that visited in March 2012.
Of those, the Northeast had the biggest segment with 12,060 visitors, followed by the Midwest with 11,143, the Southwest with 5,327, the Southeast with 4,856 and the West Coast with 1,700. All those figures beat 2012’s numbers, with the biggest increases being the Northeast’s 16.7 per cent increase. The West Coast jumped by 21.8 per cent. Canadian visitors had a slight 1.8 per cent drop from 3,516 to 3,452 during March, while visitors from UK and Ireland increased from 1,430 to 1,639 and continental Europe from 779 to 1,071 on a year-on-year monthly comparison. There were 2,079 visitors marked “other” during March 2013.
The year to date for the first quarter shows an increase from 96,187 air arrivals in 2012 to 104,029 in the initial three months of 2013, representing an increase of 8.2 per cent.
The share of 78.4 per cent from the US was identical in 2012 and 2013.