Cayman is third fastest growing destination in Caribbean
The Cayman Islands is the third fastest growing tourism destination in the Caribbean on the back of a 9 percent bump in air arrivals this year.
Figures for the first four months of 2014 show a steady increase in stay-over tourism. Only Turks and Caicos and Belize saw greater growth in the early part of the year.
Cayman welcomed just over 145,000 visitors at Owen Roberts International Airport. A further 678,000 arrived at the cruise port between January and April – also a significant increase on last year.
The statistics continue a positive trend with the resurgence of the tourism industry almost to pre-recession levels.
Air arrivals, which hit a decade-long high in 2013, have had incremental increases every month so far in 2014 – suggesting Cayman could be on course for a record-breaking year.
Cruise arrivals, which account for a much greater volume but less tourist spending, are also on the uptick. Last year there was a lull in arrivals at the port; pre-bookings for 2014 suggest this year will be much better.
There were just short of 1.4 million cruise visitors in Cayman in 2013. Around 1.7 million are expected this year.
Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said the statistics so far this year are encouraging.
“These results place us ahead of some of our leading competitors, such as St. Lucia, Barbados and Aruba, and confirms that the bold and proactive strategies implemented by this government are reaping rewards. By breaking down silos to work more closely with tourism stakeholders, using Cayman Airways more strategically and repeatedly launching innovative marketing promotions, we have ensured that our islands remain a popular and sought-after vacation destination.”
He added, “For a country like ours which uses tourism statistics as a barometer of our economic well-being, the prognosis is encouraging and the future looks bright.”
Fabian Whorms, CEO of Cayman Airways, said the airline has played a key role in increasing the airlift into Cayman.
“As one of the government’s key strategic tools used to drive economic activity, particularly in the tourism industry, there is no doubt about the effectiveness of Cayman Airways in growing tourism gateway market share. The airline is a highly visible tourism ambassador, and with our ability to provide guaranteed direct service at strategically correct price points when working in conjunction with the Department of Tourism, we are very conscious that the positive results we are seeing as a nation, are not happening by chance.”
Paul Tibbetts, the airline’s chief financial officer, said the airline transported 134,603 passengers in and out of Cayman in the first four months of 2014 – a near 12 percent increase over the previous year. He said the biggest growth has been in the key source markets of New York and Chicago.
Laura Skec, director of marketing at the Marriott Beach Resort, said the statistics reflect an upward trend that has been consistent over the past four years.
“We are excited to continue to see that we rank among the top in the region,” she said. “For future years, we should keep our focus and efforts in marketing the islands for its uniqueness and value proposition and continue to develop the partnerships that we have established and ensure airlift is increased.”
Thomas Mason, manager of Comfort Suites, said there has been more than a 10 percent increase in room occupancy through March this year.
“It is great to see air and cruise arrivals up, but we have to be vigilant to ensure we maintain the quality of our product and the professional level of our service to continue to compete successfully in what is a very competitive regional market.”
Figures from the Caribbean Tourism Organization, which records data on stay-over tourism or air arrivals, show that Turks and Caicos was the fastest growing destination in the region in the first quarter of 2014, with a 30 percent increase in arrivals, for a total of 105,506 visitors.
Belize welcomed 101,981 stop-over arrivals in the first three months of 2014, a 9.7 percent increase compared to the same period in 2014.
Cayman’s data, recorded by the Caribbean Tourism Organization, includes the first four months of the year, rather than the first quarter. The CTO took the most recently available statistics for every country in the region and calculated the percentage growth or decline.
In the same period, Grenada had the sharpest drop in the region, with a 5.5 percent decline in stop-over arrivals in the first quarter, while Curacao saw a 4.3 percent reduction in tourists.