Tourism figures for the first half of 2014 have eclipsed all records, with the industry on course for its best ever year.
Air arrivals – the key metric for the health of the island’s tourism product – are up almost 10 percent on last year.
Five of the first six months of the year have seen record-breaking numbers of tourists arrive at Owen Roberts International Airport.
A total of 210,491 passengers arrived between January and June – the best ever for the first six months of the year.
The most tourists to touch down in Cayman in a single year is 354,807 in 2000. The statistics so far for this year put the island well on course to beat that record.
The impact is beginning to filter through to businesses across the island.
Ken Hydes, president of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, said members were reporting brisk trade in the early part of the year.
“Anecdotally, hotels are full, car rentals are very active, water sports are doing pretty well, it looks good so far,” he said.
“Now is not the time for us to sit in the armchair and rest. People are making the Cayman Islands their sun and sea destination of choice and we need to make sure we earn their respect and keep their loyalty.
“We need to keep focusing on improving the experience they have, particularly on arrival and departure and make sure they become repeat visitors.”
He said the record numbers could be attributed to a combination of smart marketing by the Department of Tourism and CITA members, strong airlift into the island and the improving economic situation in the U.S., Cayman’s core market or tourism.
Brooke Meyer, director of sales and marketing, at the Holiday Inn resort, said room occupancy is on an upward curve.
She said the rebranding of the hotel from the Grand Caymanian had opened up a new marketing channel that was aiding both the hotel and the island.
“Being part of the Intercontinental Hotel group has made a big difference for us. It has been a very good six months.”
She said sports tourism – including the forthcoming CONCACAF tournament – is also helping keep the hotel busy in the typically lean late summer months.
On the cruise side, numbers are also up, though not quite so dramatically.
There were 861,517 cruise visitors reported in the first six months of 2014 compared with just under 800,000 for the same period last year, according to statistics published by the Department of Tourism.
The rebound in cruise tourism, which endured a difficult 2013, has yet to make a serious impact on the economy, according to Shaun Ebanks, deputy chairman of the Land and Sea Cooperative.
“I keep hearing about record numbers but we are not seeing much of it yet. It is certainly not filtering through to our members at this point,” Mr. Ebanks said.
He said the cruise statistics are key for his members, who rely heavily on the high volume of tourists supplied by the ships to fill island bus tours and trips to Stingray City and the Sandbar.
“We don’t really get that much from the on-island market currently, but that is something we are trying to work on,” he said.
The cooperative plans to open a new office in the hotel district on West Bay Road to help its members tap into stay-over tourism.
Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said the increase in arrivals showed the “bold and proactive strategies” of the government were reaping rewards. He said partnership with the private sector including innovative marketing promotions had been key to the success.
“Such tactics, in addition to using Cayman Airways more strategically, are helping to bolster our competitive advantage and ensure that our Islands continue to be regarded as a popular and sought after destination. I congratulate and thank all concerned who are working incredibly hard to achieve these impressive results which continue to exceeded our air arrivals targets.”