The One Young World Sustainable Finance Summit isn’t just “any” event. Drawing hundreds of the world’s best, brightest and most youthful minds to our shores, along with outright celebrity speakers, the securing of this conference is a major coup for the Kimpton, Dart and the Cayman Islands.
The opening of the Seafire Resort in late 2016 — just in time to welcome the One Young World delegates — foreshadows a much-needed renaissance in Cayman’s lagging mid-level to upscale tourism room inventory.
Since the closure of Grand Cayman’s Hyatt Regency (in 2004) and Courtyard by Marriott (in 2008), the island’s room stock for discerning travelers has been limited, and the selection of possible locations for large conferences — while of high quality — has been even more narrow.
Looking around the island, however, we are hard-pressed to identify when the future of Cayman tourism has appeared to be so bright.
For example, The Ritz-Carlton, Marriott and Westin resorts have all recently undergone multimillion-dollar upgrades.
Along the Seven Mile Beach corridor, in addition to the Kimpton Seafire Resort, Dart’s plans for a five-star beachfront hotel are well under way, and the expansion of Camana Bay continues apace.
In an important but different segment of the market, an outside investment group has purchased the Treasure Island resort and, using fresh capital and fresh ideas, plans to breathe new life into the troubled property by transforming it into a Margaritaville Resort.
Out east, Bodden Town has hopes for the development of the upscale St. James Point resort in Beach Bay. In East End, Health City is progressing with its plans for an on-site hotel for medical tourists, and in Frank Sound the proposed Ironwood golf resort is waiting in the wings.
And don’t forget about the government’s commitment to move forward with the cruise berthing facility in George Town harbor, which will upgrade the experience of visitors who arrive by ship in our country’s capital.
In last Thursday’s Compass, we ran a story on a “mixed bag” of statistics for stay-over tourism. In brief, stay-over arrivals were “flat” through the first nine months of the year, amid a general increase in arrivals throughout the Caribbean region. We would attribute some of that localized stasis to lack of room inventory, not attractiveness as a destination. In other words, once the hotels fill up — they’re full.
On the bright side, rates for hotel rooms in Cayman have increased by 13 percent in the past year — meaning resorts are making more money for providing, essentially, the same product — in obedience to the laws of supply and demand.
This, in general, is the surest course for tourism development in Cayman: steady, managed growth in terms of capacity, accompanied by constant, consistent upgrades in terms of quality.
Sail on, Cayman.