Rolling out the Kimpton carpet for One Young World

Friday’s front page contained good news — that the One Young World forum will convene at the Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa next November.

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.

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  1. Apart from the fact that this is all very much a case of counting your chickens before they hatch I detect a slight lack of joined up thinking at the end of this editorial.

    How can a 13 percent hike in room rates be interpreted as a good thing if hotels are already struggling to achieve profitable occupancy rates? Rather than generating more income a move like is likely, as has happened at other destinations, to simply price Grand Cayman out of the market.

    I suspect in reality that this room rate comparison is a bit misleading because throughout the year you can find heavily discounted prices for most hotels on Grand Cayman through the various booking websites. In fact all through Pirates Week there was availability at special or reduced rates and that certainly is not a good sign.

    There is a big difference between a quoted room rate and actual income as more than a few hotels have discovered to their cost. I remember one new hotel on the Red Rea that was funded on a projected room rate of USD150-200 a night but ended up having to sell off rooms to package tour operators for a fraction of that – they went bust in under a year. Bottom line is it is no good boasting high rates for rooms that are empty most of the year, and that is what is happening now.

    One of the clear lessons from the past is that too many major projects on these islands that looked so promising on paper failed simply because they were (proverbially) built on quicksand. In two years time it will be interesting to look back at these comments.

    The other thing this editorial ducks is the abject failure of DoT to make any impact on the UK and European tourism market. It is hard to tell whether they do not understand it or have just given up on it but the fact is that the Cayman Islands are being left in the dust at a time when most other destinations in this region (particularly Cuba) are enjoying a surge in transatlantic visitors.

  2. Mr Williams is correct, we are lacking in luring guests from the UK and Europe, but the guests from these destinations will be almost exclusively high end. Some of the new product and inventory should help with this. The UK’s European DoT efforts are competent, Grand Cayman has just lacked the product they are looking for.
    The disconnect I see in the editorial is touting high end stay over tourism and business opportunities vs cruise tourism. the two are oil and water, and the proposed ports will only compromise the high end stay-over product.
    The final potential Achilles Tendon is crime. Grand Cayman is not there yet, but God forbid we become another destination that cannot permit our guests to leave the hotel compound.

  3. I think that Government and developers are looking at development as only a profit tool, and not all around assets to tourism . If they were you would see some high end and some low end resorts, that would give the consumer / tourist a choice of accommodation, not everyone enjoy or can afford staying at these expensive high end places.

  4. Ron is right, however large developers like Dart don’t do lower end resorts such as motels or Bed and breakfasts. Those are done by smaller businesses and individuals.There is a large untapped market in Cayman for nice rooms at a reasonable price, just not much interest..

  5. Mr Davis I agree , but I said Government and developers. Government are the one to say how the Islands should be developed if they know and care how the Islands needs to be developed to sustain a good and desired tourist destination .

  6. The problem I see in the comments here is the traditional confusion between high end and expensive or simply over-priced. The belief that paying a lot of money is the only way to get a top quality vacation was effectively destroyed when major UK and European tour operators started the move over to all-inclusive (AI) about 15 years ago. You can now fly from the UK for a week AI (that’s flights, transfers, meals and drinks) at destinations throughout the region for not much more BA charge to fly you from London to ORIA in economy. And you can trust me these are not the old-fashioned cheapo package holidays. Many of the resorts being offered put anything available on Grand Cayman to shame.

    As for DoT (and this is in response to Peter Hillenbrand) they have consistently failed to address the needs of UK/European tourists. Speaking from personal experience I can say that their efforts in the UK have been a joke. In fact they’ve actually lost any inroads that might have made into the UK market during the 1990s and appear to have actively discouraged two of the largest AI operators from getting established here.

    However you look at it building more hotels is not the answer if the tourism product remains as it is now – over-priced, low on service and years behind the current market trends. Having the Kimpton brand name here is very nice but if you are talking about serious tourism it would be a lot better if it was Sandals.