Despite a record-breaking year for tourism, the slow season has arrived right on cue. Visitor arrivals dropped from around 30,000 in August to just over 13,000 in September – traditionally the worst month for tourism in the Cayman Islands.
While the September lull was less severe than in previous years, tourism leaders believe it is an inevitable part of the annual tourism cycle.
Ken Hydes, president of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, said, “I think it is a consequence of our customer base. People go back to university, people go back to school, to their jobs, so travel has always been at that sort of level in September and October.
“On the plus side, we are now looking forward to things picking up in November, heading into Thanksgiving, which, for me, signals the start of the high season again.”
He said the slowdown allowed some restaurants, bars and hotels to give their premises a makeover and give their staff some time off ahead of the busy period.
Several establishments close completely for all or part of September and October. “A lot of people have used the time to refresh and renew – not just themselves but their properties as well,” added Mr. Hydes.
“The Marriott has done a major renovation of the property, taking it up to a much higher level of guest experience.”
September’s arrival figures, while low in comparison with the rest of the year, are still up by 2,651 on the same month last year. That small bump, said Mr. Hydes, could be attributed to the dive industry. “Talking to some of the operators, they have not really seen much of a lull at all,” he added.
Steve Broadbelt, who runs Ocean Frontiers dive shop in East End, said it had actually been a busy month for his business.
“I think it was our best numbers for September on record,” he said. “There are a lot of people that are starting to figure out that the diving here is really, really good in September. The water is warm and the conditions are great.”
He said an underwater photography workshop and the annual coral spawning event had also helped entice tourists to Ocean Frontiers in September. He said a drop-off in arrivals was inevitable with the start of the new school year in the U.S.
“I think people who don’t have kids or are in college or whatever have figured out that September is actually a good time to come,” he said.
The resurgence in cruise arrivals continued in September with 87,536 tourists arriving at the port – the highest number since 2009.