Midway through 2015, both stay-over and cruise tourist arrival numbers remain higher overall for the Cayman Islands this year than they were during the first half of 2014.
However, the record-setting performances in stay-over tourism for both July and August 2014 may be difficult to repeat.
“We’ve seen 7 [percent] and 11 percent [visitor] increases in the past two years,” Tourism Minister and Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell said during an interview Saturday. “We have to be realistic with our expectations.”
Stay-over visitor numbers dropped in June by a little more than 4 percent compared to June 2014, following a similar decline in May when compared to the previous year.
Despite the slight two-month decrease, stay-over visitor tallies remained higher overall in the first six months of this year due to better performance during Cayman’s tourism high season. Through June 2015, stay-over visitor numbers were about 1.5 percent higher than during the same period in 2014.
However, there were also record-setting tourism arrival numbers in 2014 during the typically slower tourism months of July and August. In July 2014, more than 39,000 stay-over visitors came to Cayman, and in August 2014, more than 30,000 arrived. Cayman Islands Department of Tourism figures recorded since the year 2000 show no previous July and August stay-over arrival numbers even close to those numbers.
In addition, Mr. Kirkconnell said, Cayman is bracing for what is expected to be a “4,000 visitor hit” this month, with the cancellation of the CONCACAF under-15 boys football tournament. In the medium to long term, Mr. Kirkconnell has said, the Cayman Islands must increase its overall number of available hotel rooms if the territory wants to see more stay-over visitors in future years. He has noted that Cayman’s available hotel room space is maxed out during the high season, typically from December to April.
“We have a great product that has no new hotel rooms added to it,” Mr. Kirkconnell said. Cruise tourism arrivals, meanwhile, recorded a big jump in June. The arrival figures, released by the Department of Tourism on Friday, showed that nearly 95,000 cruise passengers visited Cayman during June this year, a 9 percent increase over June of last year.
Cruise arrival figures for the first half of 2015 have increased or remained virtually on par with last year’s numbers, with the exception of February, when there was a 25,000 passenger drop-off.
Overall, the number of cruise visitors increased about 5.5 percent during the first half of this year compared to the first half of 2014.
Particularly in the area of stay-over tourism, comparing arrival figures during 2014 to any other year might not seem to be a fair comparison.
More than 382,000 people put their “heads in beds” last year in Cayman, the highest number ever since the Department of Tourism began publishing statistics from the year 2000 onward. The closest any year has come to that total was 2000, when more than 354,000 visitors stayed overnight on the islands.
Since then, the Cayman Islands were affected by successive disasters of one kind or another: the September 2001 terrorist attacks on Lower Manhattan and Washington D.C. which curtailed air travel in particular; Hurricane Ivan in September 2004; and the global recession of 2008-2009.
Cruise ship visitor numbers have never again reached the peak seen in 2006, when nearly two million people came to the islands on cruises.