Growing tourist numbers added almost US$90 million in direct spending to the economy between 2013 and 2015, with the contribution split almost evenly between cruise and stay-over visitors.
Delivering his budget address last week, Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said the industry is thriving.
He said the boom in visitors’ numbers led to more spending, new business opportunities, more taxi licenses and increased room-tax revenue for government.
Cruise tourism increased by 341,000 between 2013 and 2015. Air arrivals increased by 40,000 in the same two-year period.
Cruise tourists typically spend an average of $115 per day, meaning a net increase of just over $39 million from that sector.
Stay-over visitors stay, on average, just under a week and spend $183 per day, which amounts to a net spending increase of just over $50 million.
Mr. Kirkconnell said the even split in terms of economic contribution justifies the government’s dual focus on both sectors.
Though stay-over tourists contribute significantly more individually to the economy, he said high-volume cruise tourism also represents an important spending block.
“We should also remember that approximately three months of cruise travel brings roughly the same number of visitors to our shores as one year’s worth of stay-over guests,” he said.
He acknowledged that increased numbers of tourists place stress on public areas, particularly Cayman’s beaches, but said the pursuit of cruise tourism would not be at the expense of stay-over visitors.
“We are working towards achieving a balance for the two sectors to coexist with ease, to benefit all who depend on both areas for their jobs and livelihood,” he said.
Mr. Kirkconnell again defended government’s decision to pursue the construction of new cruise berthing facilities in George Town harbor. Engineers are working to find a more environmentally friendly design, while a funding model that can meet U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office approval has yet to be established.
The tourism minister said the government believes getting the project done is important to the island’s economic future.
He expects that opening of Cuba to cruise tourism will provide dual destination opportunities involving the Cayman Islands. But, he said, while cruise lines and their passengers may tolerate a lack of facilities in a new and novel destination like Cuba, they are “unlikely to accept an itinerary that includes two ports back-to-back where tenders are the only means of disembarkation.”