More tourist beds needed for future growth
Smaller boutique hotels could be the new focus for tourism development in Cayman beyond the busy Seven Mile Beach corridor.
Rosa Harris, director of Tourism for the Cayman Islands, believes the construction of the Kimpton hotel on the Seven Mile Beach will provide a welcome addition to the number of hotel beds on the island.
But as arrival numbers climb, and with further increases targeted, the department is keen to add to the “room stock.”
Ms. Harris said the area around Seven Mile Beach is now heavily developed and the department is keen to add beds elsewhere on island by providing incentives to smaller hotels in the east and encouraging condo owners to move from long-term rentals to tourist rentals.
“On Seven Mile Beach there is limited space for any more development. We believe the eastern districts is next, and we believe boutique style hotels, that is with 100 rooms or below, or ideally 50 rooms or below, is the best fit.”
There are currently 5,242 rooms available for tourists on the island. That includes 2,474 condos, 2,143 hotel rooms and 615 villas.
The Cayman Compass reported earlier this month that occupancy rates at Cayman’s major hotels had dipped slightly in the first half of 2014 despite a surge in tourism that saw visitor arrivals hit record levels.
The figures, from an industry report, did not include smaller hotels and condos, which are believed to be doing well.
The Department of Tourism tries to collect more comprehensive statistics on occupancy rates, but reporting from the property owners has not been consistent enough in recent times for the data to be meaningful. Ms. Harris says she is urging businesses to report data on a more timely basis so the department can have meaningful occupancy statistics to work from.
The key statistic, though, is the booming air arrivals. She believes the success will continue and that alongside the redevelopment of the airport and the cruise terminal, the provision of sufficient hotel beds is imperative.
She said, “The Department of Tourism is supportive of condo owners who would like to enter the short-term rental pool. We are very keen on the development of boutique hotels.
She said tourism officials would work with the Department of Commerce and Investment to help advise potential developers.
There are currently around 400 licensed tourism accommodations, from hotels with several hundred rooms to one-bed apartments that are rented to visitors.
As tourism numbers lift, hotels are also attempting to bring up rates – something that Ms. Harris says could help explain the disconnect between rising arrival figures and slightly declining occupancy.
“Over the last eight years we went through a recession and the private sector had to reduce their rates to win business and exist in a hard economic time. Room rates really plummeted in 2008 and the private sector has been in the process of increasing rates back towards what they were.”
Tourism councilor Joey Hew has previously spoken of the need for additional hotel beds in Cayman.
“We have to look at ways of how to spread the development over the next few decades if we can. We know that we are short on hotel rooms. We know we need the Kimpton, and the Hyatt rebuilt. “Other than that, we need to be strategic about how we approve hotels going forward. We need to plan,” he said in a television interview earlier this year.