Sports tourism in the Cayman Islands has received a significant boost with the staging of the CONCACAF Under-15 football competition, which got under way Tuesday at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex in George Town.
Hotels, restaurants, bars, car rental firms and water sports operators normally have a quiet period this time of year. But with more than 700 visitors from 23 countries converging on Grand Cayman, the additional direct and indirect revenues from visitor spending during the two-week football tournament will likely help boost the bottom line of some area businesses.
“I know a lot of the hotels are full and we’re still looking for some rooms because of this competition,” CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb said Monday. “I think the Marriott is completely sold out and also the Westin and Holiday Inn. The Ritz-Carlton is around 90-95 per cent occupancy because we are hosting FIFA delegates here as well. Next week, we also start our coaches course, so there will be even more visitors.”
The inaugural competition is the brainchild of Mr. Webb, a native of the Cayman Islands who has risen up the ranks to join the global governing authorities at FIFA, who are tasked with overseeing worldwide football.
The Cayman Islands was set to play St. Maarten on Tuesday night and then return to the Truman Bodden Sports Complex on Thursday to face the US Virgin Islands. Cayman will face Bermuda on Friday, followed by Bahamas on Sunday and Aruba next Tuesday. All matches are set to kick off at 7.30pm.
Depending on their success, the Cayman Islands could qualify to play in the semifinals next Friday and in the final two days later. All matches, up to the semifinals, are free.
The local football community has surpassed a target of 200 volunteers to assist with running the tournament.
And the positive local response is a welcome development as there is more to come with another major football tournament set for early next year.
“Next year, we host in January for the females the CONCACAF Under-20 finals and also the CONCACAF U-15 girls tournament in August,” Mr. Webb said. “We encourage all the football fans to come out and support the teams. Cayman is a very diverse society and I’m sure that there is no team here that will not have someone here from their country.
“We’re looking forward to an outstanding tournament and would like to thank all the support we have received, and we’re looking forward to an exciting two weeks,” he said.