Record air arrivals; cruise arrivals also soar
Last year was another record year for tourism in the Cayman Islands, though growth was marginal compared with the rest of the region.
The islands welcomed 385,379 total air arrivals in 2015, an increase of 0.67 percent over 2014, which was the best year on record for tourism.
Against the backdrop of continued debate about the merits of a cruise dock for the Cayman Islands, arrivals from that sector soared in 2015.
Just over 1.7 million passengers arrived at the George Town port, making last year the best since 2007 and the fourth best since 2000.
Despite those encouraging figures, advocates for a cruise port continue to suggest the bump will be temporary unless a modern berthing facility is built.
Though growth in air arrivals reached a plateau after a double-digit jump in 2014, it was still a very good year for hoteliers, who increased average daily room rates by 13 percent to almost $400 per night, the highest in the Caribbean.
Several tourism officials, including Minister Moses Kirkconnell, have cited a need for new hotel rooms as the main factor that is preventing further growth in air arrivals.
That is not likely to change too much in 2016, though the 266-room Kimpton Seafire Resort and Spa is expected to open in November, and the rebranded Margaritaville resort could open at the Treasure Island site on Seven Mile Beach before the end of the year.
Further down the line, the Health City hotel and a planned five-star hotel in Bodden Town are also in the works.
“The continued interest by developers to invest in the Cayman Islands is a good indication that we are a country destined to grow,” said Rosa Harris, director of the Department of Tourism.
Mr. Kirkconnell said various initiatives, including the new tourism school, are helping Caymanians be a bigger part of the success story in tourism.
“The continued success of our tourism sector means that more Caymanians are able to positively impact our visitors’ experiences while maintaining a livelihood in what is an exciting and dynamic industry,” he said.
Chief Officer Stran Bodden said the redevelopment of the airport, which began in 2015 and is expected to take three years to complete, is another piece of the puzzle.
“The improvements at the airport, along with other infrastructure projects currently in progress, will make our tourism marketplace even more appealing for our visitors as product enhancements, including numerous hotel developments, continue to come on line,” he said.