Record cruise figures on horizon

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Tourism figures are on the rise in the Cayman Islands with “record-breaking” cruise ship numbers expected next year. 

Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said cruise passenger arrivals were set to reach 1.65 million by the end of this year and were expected to hit 1.95 million passengers in 2015, figures not recorded since 2006. 

Statistics shown in the Cayman Islands Tourism Association’s annual report also revealed air arrivals are on the rise.  

Last year, 345,387 passengers arrived by air – a 7.4 percent increase over 2012.  

During March 2013, air arrivals were at a record 43,327 – up by more than 4,500 over March 2012. 

Indicators of economic well-being 

Speaking at the Cayman Islands Tourism Association’s annual general meeting last week, Mr. Kirkconnell said tourism statistics were indicators of economic well-being and showed good reason to be optimistic about the future. 

“I am delighted to report that we are on the threshold of two record-breaking years and are poised to see increases in both stay-over and cruise passenger arrivals, which is truly phenomenal news,” Mr. Kirkconnell said. 

“At this point, I should stress that these passenger increases were agreed with cruise lines as an interim measure while government endeavours to provide a berthing facility. It should not be misconstrued that the berthing facility is not required, nor should it be assumed that passenger arrivals can be sustained at this level without it,” he added. 

Cruise ship terminal  

Mr. Kirkconnell said he met with cruise line representatives last month to provide updates on improvements at the George Town cruise terminal. 

Government prepared a strategic outline case last April which identified eight possible berthing options which were provided to PWC for assessment. 

An environmental impact assessment is expected to be completed by October this year. 

Hotels and developments  

Currently, 5,148 rooms are available to tourists on all three Cayman Islands, according to the tourism association’s annual report, and more are on the way. The old Hyatt on West Bay Road will be redeveloped into a 160-room hotel with 48 condos, Mr. Kirkconnell announced. 

Construction is set to begin at the end of this year and the property will be rebranded upon completion. Grand Cayman Beach Suites will also add two additional stories and a new rooftop to the current property to create 14 rooms and four deluxe suites.  

The hotel will expand from 53 rooms to 71 and will also be rebranded. 

“I am not at liberty to reveal the identities of the new hotel partners as it would be inappropriate to make those announcements in the absence of the entities concerned,” Mr. Kirkconnell said. “But what I can say is that we have two powerful brands coming to our islands, and discussions have begun with an extremely well-known and influential third.” 

The Kimpton Hotel is set to open in 2016 and two new hotel properties are being planned for the eastern side of Grand Cayman in the next two to three years.  

One will service Dr. Devi Shetty’s Health City Cayman Islands and the other will be constructed by private developers. 

Mr. Kirkconnell said the various projects and sizeable investments spoke to the level of confidence investors had in the islands. 

“More importantly, from an industry standpoint, the new hotels will revitalize our mature product base and add more diversity to the accommodations sector,” he said. “This in turn will expand our ability to offer a high-end, cosmopolitan and sophisticated tourism product.” 

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Cruise passenger arrivals are expected to reach 1.65 million by the end of 2014 and hit 1.95 million next year, according to tourism officials. – PHOTO: CHRIS COURT