Giant leaps for Caribbean tourism, small steps for Cayman Islands

Tourists enjoy the sunshine on Seven Mile Beach on Wednesday. – PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY

Despite recording record visitor arrivals in 2015, the Cayman Islands was outstripped in tourist arrivals by the rest of the Caribbean, which enjoyed record growth.

The region generally saw a 7 percent increase in visitors, compared with a marginal rise of just 0.7 percent for Cayman.

Cayman was in the bottom five of the 28 countries that form part of the Caribbean Tourism Organization in terms of growth in stay-over tourists, according to a detailed statistical breakdown of regional tourism figures.

Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said the plateau had been expected after several years of growth because of a shortage of hotel rooms to meet demand.

But he said the amount of money coming into the Cayman Islands through tourism spending had increased substantially in 2015, suggesting it had still been a successful year for the islands.

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“The daily room rate in Cayman is up 10 percent,” Mr. Kirkconnell said, “so there’s tremendous success in the actual revenue coming in.

“We have no more rooms, our rooms are full, so we’re going to be flat now until November when the Kimpton opens. It is not a fair assessment to look at Cayman and say because we didn’t have 6 percent growth that we’re not doing well.

“You need to look at the whole package and say ‘room rates are up, they’re doing extremely well.’”

International tourist trips to the region grew by 7 percent to 28.7 million visits, according to analysis from the Caribbean Tourism Organization. Visitors spent an estimated $30 billion, a 4.2 percent rise over the $28.8 billion spent in 2014.

Speaking at a press conference in Barbados Tuesday, Caribbean Tourism Organization secretary general Hugh Riley attributed the growth to improved global economic conditions, falling oil prices, rising seat capacity and persistent marketing by the member countries.

The tourism organization is predicting further increases of around five percent regionally for 2016.

The biggest gainers last year were Cuba, Aruba and Barbados, which all saw increases in arrival figures in excess of 10 percent.

Mr. Riley said there had been increased demand from all key source markets, particularly the U.S., which accounts for 50 percent of Caribbean holidays. Arrivals were also up from Europe and Canada and travel within the Caribbean region reached an all-time high.

Despite the political and economic challenges faced by many South American countries, that source market continued its rapid growth in 2015, generating 2.1 million visitors to the Caribbean, an 18.3 percent increase over 2014.

Tourists may be abundant on Cayman’s beaches as local tourism figures continue to grow, but compared to regional statistics, Cayman’s tourism growth figures are relatively low. – PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY
Tourists may be abundant on Cayman’s beaches as local tourism figures continue to grow, but compared to regional statistics, Cayman’s tourism growth figures are relatively low. – PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY

Mr. Kirkconnell said Cayman’s main focus remained on the U.S. for the time being. Once new hotels are built and more rooms are available, he said, the islands would be marketed more heavily in other areas.

“Our rooms are full, our daily rate is going up. When we get more rooms we will attack South America, we’ll go after Europe,” he added.

Mr. Riley said the region as a whole is defying expectations.

“The pace of growth of Caribbean tourism outperformed every major tourism region in the world,” he said. “Our region has set new arrival and spend records in 2015, far surpassing expectations.”

Despite some concerns about the impact of the Zika virus, he believes the growth can continue.

He added, “The Caribbean cannot be complacent. We must continue to grow our traditional markets, strengthen emerging ones and penetrate new sources as we target the 30 million arrivals mark.”

Kelsey Jukam contributed reporting.

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  1. Cayman will enjoy a different kind of tourist here than for instance, say Cuba. Cayman is a small but stable country ruled as a British over seas territory. We have the Rich of the Richest living here, who want to enjoy a retired, quiet safe life and enjoy their money to the fullest. (can’t blame them)
    We do not need adventurous over population, nor do we need crimes that will disrupt our daily lives; so let us keep Cayman safe for all by loving and sharing and watching each other’s backs.