Tourism arrivals increase in 2015

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. 

- Advertisement -

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. 

- Advertisement -

Support local journalism. Subscribe to the all-access pass for the Cayman Compass.

Subscribe now


  1. Talking about the improvements of the airport, and tourism school, do not put tourist in hotel rooms, and saying every few days that the numbers are rising, do not put dollars in the economy, but the crime of what happened to the elder tourist a few days ago is destroying the tourism. The politicians and the DoT should take their heads out of the sand at the cruise ship dock, and see that the real money into tourism is into stay over tourism.

  2. The soaring figures for cruise ship arrivals speaks for itself. There is absolutely no reason why they will not continue to increase, however with some days having 5 or 6 ships in port we will soon be close to saturation point.
    All this makes a nonsense of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a new cruiseship dock, not to mention the environmental damage.

  3. Whatever spin you put on all this it still shows that while other destinations in the region are enjoying significant increases in tourist arrivals the Cayman Islands has effectively flat-lined.

    I am also not sure if the quoted USD400 room rate is anything to boast about because it seems to hark back to the traditional inability of DoT to realise that expensive is more likely to simply mean over-priced than high-end. I certainly would not be willing to pay USD400 plus tax and service charges for any hotel room on these islands.

    What DoT should bear in mind when releasing stats like this is that tourists from the UK and Europe can currently take holidays in several neighbouring destinations that work out cheaper than US400 a day, and that is on an all-inclusive basis (flights, transfers, meals and drinks) for two people. Not only are most of the resorts at these destinations a lot better than anything on Grand Cayman but travellers can also fly there non-stop from several UK airports in modern airliners like the 787 Dreamliner. The sad thing is this is a lucrative market that DoT could have got us into about ten years ago but they had better ideas.

    Having said that I also suspect the quoted room rate figure does not accurately reflect what hotels are actually getting paid for accommodation. Based on research I did last year it looks more like USD400 is the hoped for room rate and fails to take account of the heavily discounted rates needed to sell the rooms. Even during Pirates Week major hotels on SMB were offering deals through the on-line booking services to try and fill rooms. It rather reminds me of a hotel in a resort I lived in some years ago where the owner liked to boast his rooms were worth USD180 a night when in fact he was being forced to sell them off at USD25 a night to tour operators simply to cover his running costs. In the end he went bust.

    The other thing that is building up speed like an avalanche coming along to sweep our tourists away is Cuba. They passed the 3 million tourists mark in 2015, arrivals from the USA are up over 50 percent and we are now seeing proper scheduled air services coming in from the USA to replace the charter flights that have been operating for the past two decades.

    The stats for Cuba are staggering – in December they agreed to allow 110 flights a day in from the USA (20 of those into Havana) and they are planning to add 13,600 new hotel rooms to an already pretty impressive selection of resorts.

    There is nothing to get excited about in the 2015 tourism figures detailed in this story. In reality they should be a cause of some concern because it is quite clear that in regional tourism terms the Cayman Islands is rapidly being left behind.

  4. @ David Williams, the government of Cayman do not care about attracting tourist to the Islands, when they get hotels, hospitals, or and other Huge development done it’s all for big $$$ and real estate and club members.