A record number of tourists arrived in the Cayman Islands in 2017, with just over 2.1 million people arriving on these shores by air and sea.

Air arrivals hit record levels for the fourth year in succession, with 418,403 visitors touching down at the Owen Roberts International Airport. That represents an 8.5 percent increase on last year and 54 percent growth since 2009.

Stay-over visitation has been growing steadily for the last eight years and officials predict the number of tourists will continue to increase in 2018.

Cruise arrivals were also up last year, with 1.73 million passengers arriving at the port, a marginal 1 percent gain on last year.

The cruise total is not in itself a record, but the combined total is the highest ever recorded.

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The figures, particularly in the cruise market, were skewed slightly by an influx of cruise ships diverting from islands in the eastern Caribbean impacted by Hurricane Irma.

Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said he expected growth to continue in the stay-over market, but stagnate in the cruise arena until a cruise berthing facility is completed.

“We expect cruise to be flat and stay-over visitation to be up by around 5 percent in 2018,” he added.

He said consistent year-on-year increases in Cayman were trickling down throughout the economy.

Based on the Department of Tourism’s analysis, stay-over tourists collectively spent some $485 million in island hotels, restaurants, attractions and businesses in the last year – a $55 million increase on 2016.

“The important part for the private sector and for entrepreneurial Caymanians is that this kind of growth translates into more business and more opportunity,” Mr. Kirkconnell said.

The U.S. and Canada were responsible for the greatest increases in arrivals in 2017, with growth rates of 13 and 6 percent, respectively.

Rosa Harris, director of the Department of Tourism, said emerging markets, including Latin America, had also played a part in the success story.

Arrivals from South America increased by 9 percent and from Central America by 6 percent.

She also credited the Department of Tourism’s “fearless innovation” in destination marketing, citing the Cayman Vows magazine targeting wedding tourism among its successful initiatives. Ms. Harris said Cayman Airways, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, had also played a major role in opening up new markets and bringing new visitors to the Cayman Islands, sometimes blazing a trail that other airlines had followed.

She said the airlift into the Cayman Islands was increasing year on year, creating new opportunities for travelers from different parts of the U.S., and further afield, to visit.

“Aviation is the catalyst to driving visitation,” she added.

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  1. I have to believe that Mr Kirkconnell is not fully understanding his Tourism and where he needs to focus on . He boasted about the great amount of Tourists that came last year and that most of them came by Cruise ship, but didn’t capitalize on the stay over increase like he should have . If there are going to be decline in cruise ship because the other would be coming back online, why would he think that having a cruise ship pier would change that ?
    But predict that cruise ship visitors would drop if the cruise ship pier is not done . Yes Cayman would see a decline in cruise visitors this year . Because the increase last year was due to the other Caribbean Islands being effected by the hurricanes.
    I noticed that there was big money left in the economy by the stay over Tourist but nothing mentioned in the cruise Visitors, how come those dollars were not mentioned ?

  2. Our numbers will go down without new tourist attractions, beaches on 7 mile beach with facilities including bars and restaurants.
    Just because one cruise line is happy with tenders doesn’t mean all cruise lines are.

  3. Is it a cause for celebration or concern? How many more do you need to turn Grand Cayman into a destination to avoid?

    There is such a thing as maximum capacity! Overcrowding has become a burden on the island, its residents and infrastructure. On the Quality of Life!

    A wise person would make this island unaffordable for a middle-class households and
    turn it into an exclusive preserve of super wealthy.

  4. There are many hidden costs to conventional tourism and it can have unfavorable economic effects on the host community.

    > Leakage. In general, tourism leakage takes place when significant revenues from its economic activities leave the destination. Islands, in particular, suffer from significant leakage. Repatriation of tourism revenue comes in many forms. Many hotels, resorts, restaurants are owned by corporations in North America, Europe, Asia and Latin-America. Additional revenue leakages come in the form of higher salaries for expatriate employees, employment of foreign construction crews to build hotels and infrastructure supports, food and beverage imports etc. Thus, the majority of the profit derived from tourism actually benefits the transnational corporations and developed countries, not the host country. Construction of elaborate, exclusive hotels also leads to over-building, environmental degradation, and marginalization of locals.
    > Infrastructure cost. Airport, roads and other infrastructure improvements are costly activities. Tax breaks and other financial advantages comes with the cost as well. Public resources spent on subsidized infrastructure or tax breaks reduce government investment in other critical areas such as education and health.
    >Increase in prices. Increasing demand for basic services and goods from tourists raises prices that negatively affect local residents whose income does not increase proportionately. Tourism development and the related rise in real estate demand dramatically increase building costs and land values. Not only does this make it more difficult for local people to meet their basic daily needs; it can also result in a dominance by outsiders in land markets and in-migration that erodes economic opportunities for the locals.
    >Economic dependence on tourism. This makes the country very vulnerable to anything that negatively affects the local tourism industry (e.g. terrorist scares, military conflicts, impacts of natural disasters). Irma has demonstrated just that.
    > Negative impact of tourism to the environment. This is self explanatory.
    > Tourism developers and planners are focusing on the needs of the tourists, ignoring the rights and needs of the local residents. Overcrowding, noise pollution and ever increasing amount of garbage degrade quality of life of the island residents.

    Barcelona, the city of 1.6 million gets more than 30 million tourists a year. This comes to 20 visitors per a local resident. Somewhat permanent population of Grand Cayman is 50,000. 2.1mil/50,000=42 (!!!) visitor per one resident. But lets get back to Barcelona, a continental city. Anti-tourism groups were born in 2014. In January 2017, thousands of Barcelona residents protested the volume of tourists. Tourism revenue is not being shared as equitably as many locals would like. In 2016 a citizens’ survey was conducted. Residents responded that their No. 1 concern is still unemployment — even though the Spanish economy has rebounded from the economic crisis. Their No. 2 concern: Too many tourists.

    If we compare Barcelona (20 visitors/resident) to that of Gand Cayman (40 visitors/resident), it is obvious that this island has already reached its tourism carrying capacity. Long time ago.

    Social and economic well-being of all Caymanians is suffering because of mass tourism.

  5. I still don’t understand why Mr Kirkconnell would even mention that we need a cruise ship pier . With knowing the big money that the stay over Visitors left in the Economy , but wouldn’t mention how much that the about three amount of cruise Visitors had left in the Economy. That says to me that the numbers were too embarrassing to mention . But his agenda is more important , the cruise ship pier .

    I think that most smart business People would agree that you should capitalize on the different smaller amount of Tourists that left the largest amount of money in the Economy . Not focus on those millions of cruise Tourists that just over crowd the Island and don’t leave no money and make it unpleasant for the ones that are leaving the big money .

    I would say to Mr Kirkconnell that he get of the cruise ship pier and get on the Airport runway and start from there then he will be doing something for the Islands and all the people .