Tourism arrivals continue to soar, with a record-breaking 39,185 visitors touching down at Grand Cayman’s airport in January.
The figure is a 24 percent increase on last year and a 14 percent increase on January 2015, the previous record. A total of 218,430 cruise passengers also arrived in Cayman last month, an increase of 20 percent over January 2017.
The influx of tourists is bringing economic growth to the islands, according to Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell.
The surge in arrivals has also created some issues, particularly at the airport, where visitors have reported long wait times to get through immigration and customs on weekends.
“These are good problems to have,” said Theresa Leacock-Broderick, president of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association.
She believes tourists largely understand that the airport is under construction and, so long as it is handled efficiently and concerns are dealt with, they are prepared to put up with some inconvenience.
“A lot of my guests say it is all worth it once they get here,” said Ms. Leacock-Broderick, who runs Plantana condominiums.
She said many were repeat visitors and they are pleased to see progress at the airport.
Ms. Broderick believes the increased arrivals come down to a combination of factors, including the fact that the Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa is up and running, the improved economy in the U.S., and the fact that Cayman is now Zika free.
“There is definitely more to it than the hurricanes that affected other islands. We are expecting a very robust season,” she said.
The rising tourism figures are driven largely by growth in the U.S. market. Visitation figures from the U.S. were up significantly from the West Coast (63 percent), the Southwest (47 percent) and the Midwest (27 percent). The number of visitors from Canada was also up by 13 percent, while the smaller Latin American market also showed significant double digit gains.
“Continued increases in visitation are evidence that the state of our tourism industry is strong,” Mr. Kirkconnell said.
“I am optimistic that if we continue this path, 2018 will be another record-breaking year for arrivals and that the Cayman Islands will benefit from economic growth that all can be proud of. I applaud the Department of Tourism and all tourism partners for their continued contributions to this vibrant industry.”
The Department of Tourism says it expects carnival season to drive further growth over the next few months. It also hopes to attract new visitors to the islands with its “Summer Only in Cayman” promotion, which offers food-themed visits for families, including a “fourth night free” at partner hotels.