Stay-over tourism arrivals for 2016 are tracking slightly below last year, though a busy December could still mean a record year for the industry.
Figures for the first 11 months of 2016 show that 345,155 visitors touched down in the territory, 329 fewer than in the same period last year.
Tourism officials hope the opening of the Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa last month will help stimulate a late surge in arrivals to surpass last year’s stay-over total.
Once cruise visitors are factored into the mix, the total tourism arrival figures for 2016 to date show a slight increase over last year. Just over 1.86 million tourists touched down on the islands from January to November.
Typically the number of higher-spending stay-over visitors is used as the barometer for the health of the industry, rather than the more volatile cruise arrival figures.
The U.S. remains the main market for Cayman, with 78 percent of stay-over visitors arriving from North America.
According to official figures from the Ministry of Tourism, arrivals from the U.S. were up almost 3 percent. Top contributors include the Southeast region, a sector which grew by 9.58 percent, followed by the Southwest at 8.46 percent.
“Despite several challenges over the course of the year, I am pleased that overall arrivals continue to register growth,” said Minister for Tourism Moses Kirkconnell.
“Tourism forecasts anticipated slower growth for this year due to the capacity constraints with respect to room stock. In addition, air arrivals softened due to the rise of the Zika virus which afflicted the entire region for most of this year. At the same time, weakening of the British pound following the Brexit vote, coupled with terror attacks in Turkey, France and Germany negatively impacted travel from Europe, causing tourists to postpone travel plans.
“Having contended with all of these considerations, I am satisfied with the moderate level of growth that the Cayman Islands has still managed to achieve, thanks to the tireless efforts of the Ministry and Department of Tourism working in partnership with stakeholders in the private sector,” he said.
With the recent opening of the Kimpton Seafire Resort, room capacity has increased and will be further boosted by the opening of Margaritaville, slated for early 2017, he said.
“All growth registered within the industry is good news for the country and even better news for the many thousands of people whose livelihood depends on the tourism and hospitality sectors,” Mr. Kirkconnell said.