Cayman tourism bosses target key South American travellers

Argentina and Brazil the next frontier for marketing efforts 

Cayman tourism bosses are targeting an emerging class of affluent South American travellers in an effort to boost “stay-over” visitor numbers. 

Marketing campaigns have been launched in cosmopolitan cities, including Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo. 

Several journalists from Argentina have been invited to the Cayman Islands as part of the visiting journalists programme.  

In a report on global tourism trends earlier this year, the World Travel and Tourism Council pointed to Latin America as the fastest growing “origin markets” for the industry. 

In the Cayman Islands, air arrivals have swelled to near record levels. Last year’s total of just over 321,000 was the best since 2001. The numbers for 2013 are even better, with around 13,000 more visitors arriving in the first half of the year compared to 2012. 

Asked how the country can maintain that momentum, Cayman Islands Director of Tourism Shomari Scott highlighted the South America strategy during a panel discussion last week. 

“What we need to do is make sure we are also looking at other sources of demand,” Mr. Scott told a room full of industry leaders at the Cayman Islands Tourism Association’s educational series event Wednesday at the University College of the Cayman Islands.  

“There is still a lot of demand from the US, Canada and Europe. In the medium term we are also looking to places such as Buenos Aires, such as Sao Paulo, where there are millions of people moving into the middle class, travelling and going to like destinations. 

“We need to raise our hand and say, ‘hey, we have a great destination here and you need to come’.” 

He said the prime time for tourist travel from that region was in September and October, when Cayman traditionally suffers a decline in visitor arrivals. 

The least expensive fare on offer online for a round-trip from Buenos Aires to Grand Cayman for a week in September is just under $1,400, with flight times listed between 18 and 20 hours, depending on layovers. 

The least expensive flight from Sao Paulo was just under $900, with flight times of 15-18 hours. 

Both Mr. Scott and Cabinet minister Moses Kirkconnell credited a strategy using Cayman Airways to open new routes, resulting in a boost to air arrivals over the past few years. Mr. Kirkconnell said the national airline, which attracts criticism in some quarters for its heavy reliance on government subsidies, is key to giving Cayman Islands an advantage over regional competitors. 

He suggested the losses endured by the airline were offset by the profits the country accrued from enhanced visitor numbers. “I believe one of the reasons we have shown this upward trend is we have a competitive edge with the national airline Cayman Airways. 

“It is going to be an educational process to make sure the country understands what that actually brings to us and how that plays into raising our numbers. 

“Dallas is a perfect example,” he said. “If tomorrow morning American and Southwest decide to come out of Dallas, then Cayman Airways can pull because they have done their job, they have provided lift, they have brought people to the island. 

“The profit centre is the island, not the airline, and we benefit by it from more arrivals.” 

Mr. Scott said lengthy negotiations to bring JetBlue from New York and WestJet from Toronto had also helped boost numbers. 


The utilisation of national flag carrier Cayman Airways will be essential to opening additional routes to a growing, and potentially lucrative, market in Latin America. – Photo: Jeff Brammer