Future of Cayman tourism: Sky-high

Step aside, Grand Cayman parrot. We’d like to submit our nomination for a new national bird: the construction crane.

The sight of these majestic creatures, soaring high in the Cayman Islands sky — heralds of new developments and greater economic growth and job opportunities — should be of great reassurance to residents of all stripes and statuses, as well as to potential investors looking to sow their capital into a fertile economy.

Last week, just in time for the start of Cayman’s high tourism season, the Dart group confirmed to the Cayman Compass that the company has set plans into motion to build a new five-star hotel that, when complete, will tie Dart’s Camana Bay development into Seven Mile Beach.

The future luxury resort, next to Royal Palms, is a distinct project from the four-star Kimpton Hotel that Dart is currently building up the road near Public Beach. Comprising two 10-story towers with a completion date of 2016, Dart’s Kimpton resort will include 263 hotel rooms and five restaurants and lounges.

With the Kimpton under way, the new hotel being planned, and even more development ongoing within Camana Bay, the Dart group continues to account for an outsize share of Cayman’s construction industry — as it did before the global recession slowed our country down, but especially since.
Dart’s grand foray into the stay-over tourism market is to be welcomed.
The Ernst & Young slogan — “Quality in Everything We Do” — could as accurately describe Dart’s manifold local projects. We have no doubt that in future decades Caymanians will view Dart’s current hotel ventures as watershed moments in Cayman’s development history, in the vein of the arrival of the Holiday Inn (Cayman’s first “branded” hotel), the establishment of the Hyatt Regency (Cayman’s first luxury hotel) and The Ritz-Carlton (which brought a new standard of style and grandeur to the Cayman Islands).

With the Hyatt in mind, the news seems to have taken a definitive turn for the better in recent months, as the oceanside component of the former resort, Grand Cayman Beach Suites, has gotten planning approval to expand vertically, turning the five-story hotel into a seven-story hotel.

On the inland side, the former Hyatt building (which has lain dormant in the 10 years since Hurricane Ivan) is poised to be revived, and re-invented, as a new 224-room resort and conference center, provisionally named the Britannia Hotel. We can only hope that the new Britannia Hotel, which could open as soon as 2017, will be able to approach the splendor of the old Hyatt in its former heyday.

That’s not all. Out in the Beach Bay area, developers are pursuing a five-star resort, the construction of which could positively transform the Bodden Town district.

Combine the four major new luxury tourism projects — Dart’s Kimpton, Dart’s second hotel, the Britannia hotel and the Beach Bay hotel — with other hotel projects — for example, the continuing Morritt’s Resort expansion and the new partnership between The Reef Resort and the Wyndham Hotel group in East End, and the future of tourism in Cayman seems as rosy as a sunset over a Seven Mile Beach construction site.

1 COMMENT

  1. Wow – just what we need. Another monolithic building on Seven Mile Beach – so typical of traditional Caribbean Islands. When completed, it will be interesting to see what restrictions will be imposed on the use, by non-resort residents, of the area in front of this enormous stretch of beach. Meanwhile, by what amount would the airlift to Cayman have to increase to bring in the tourists to fill this new facility, and how would the airlines, airport, and ground transportation provide the necessary extra resources. And this does not take into account the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Medical tourists who are expected to come down to the Shetty Hospital.

  2. Great News Indeed…Stories like these should motivate people to take advantage of the ground flow opportunities these new developments will create, especially out east..This has to be good new to the restaurateurs and attractions on that side of the island..

  3. For people who think high rise towers are the future of tourism for an island nation they are grossly mistaken. The reason people travel to a tourist destination is not to see high rise buildings, it’s to enjoy the serene natural beauty of the place. But it seems Cayman Islands have found the lure of high rise glass structures as the core of definition of tourism. Cayman has seen unprecedented destruction of its natural beauty to construction of artificial structures in the past decade. How many tourist would want to come to a place because of its buildings is anyone’s guess but Cayman has lost the prime reason for tourists to visit and that’s a large section of their beaches and the small town serene natural beauty atmosphere.

  4. Sounds good…on paper.

    But won’t Cayman’s overall tourism product and local cultural modes have to change drastically to accomodate this new expansion of both expected visitors and accomodations ?

    A major Dart hotel on each end of the 7-Mile Beach, along with whatever else lies in-between will have the WB Road as crowded and congested as the Miami Beach strip…is that what this new visitor population will be coming to Cayman to experience ?

    Also, restrictions on Saturday night licenced-premises openings also does not fit in with the world’s general modes on week-end partying and relaxation.

    Saturday night is the world’s party night, with the rest day of Sunday generally observed as a rest and relaxation day; this has nothing to do with religious beliefs, it simply makes sense.

    Currently, everything is packed into Friday night in Cayman, after a hard week’s work, as the only night allowed for extended opening hours for establishments.

    This is as out-dated as dinasours as far as the rest of the world is concerned and causes many problems of alcohol-related violence and other issues simply because people are still carrying their work-related stress out with them and condensing it all into Friday night…not a relaxed night for either tourist or locals.

    Another related local mode to call into question is the anti-gambling laws of the Cayman Islands; high-roller tourists like to gamble, that is also an accepted culture world-wide and accomodated for and that includes high-roller Caymanians who travel to other tourist destinations for exactly the same purpose.

    We cannot expect to invite and accept the world here to spend their money in the Cayman Islands without providing what they consider value for that money.

    All these issues heavily impact further tourist expansion and needs to be considered in a very serious way.

    Anyone who doubts what I’m saying…take a week-end to party on Miami Beach…you’ll definately get a feel and experience for the real thing.

  5. Old hospitality industry saying – It’s easier to build hotels than fill them.

    I can remember a place I used to work in where the banks funded a spectacular 4-star hotel on the promise of room rates in the US200 a night range.

    Reality quickly kicked in and to fill the place they were forced to sell rooms to tour operators at US40-50 a night including breakfast just to keep up the minimum repayments. The property was then sold and has been retained by a US investor as a tax write off. When I last visited there in 2010 it was empty.

    OK, I concede Dart is self-funded and so doesn’t have some of these issues but do you really want this island littered with empty hotels.

    Get real here. This is a very competitive and very limited market. Once you kick room rates over about US150 a night people will go somewhere else.

    Couple that to an ‘international’ airport that verges on third-world and this is all the proverbial road to nowhere.

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