Cayman’s hotels are the most expensive in the region, hitting an average price of just over US$426 a night in the first half of 2018.
As demand for the destination has increased, so too have the prices, with hotels charging nearly 20 percent more than just a year ago, according to Integra Realty Resources Caribbean Hospitality Market Update.
St. Lucia, at US$369 a night, is next highest.
The Cayman Islands is significantly outperforming its Caribbean rivals both in terms of tourist numbers and revenue generated, the report indicates. The territory saw a 16.5 percent increase in air arrivals in 2018 against a backdrop of declining tourism in the region. Only the Dominican Republic (6.1 percent), Jamaica (5.4 percent) and St. Lucia (5.2 percent) saw significant increases in tourism in the first half of the year.
The impact of the hurricanes that hit the eastern Caribbean last year is seen in dramatic declines in tourist numbers in affected islands, with Puerto Rico down 47 percent, the U.S. Virgin Islands down 54 percent, and the British Virgin Islands down 71 percent.
The report suggests that the Cayman Islands is the prime beneficiary of that decline.
“It is likely that the average daily rate for Cayman was buoyed by the opening of the Kimpton Seafire in December 2016, as well as the fact that many travelers previously planning on trips over the holidays to the USVI, St. Maarten, BVI, Anguilla, Antigua and St. Barth may have diverted to Cayman instead,” it states.
At the Westin resort on Seven Mile Beach, Managing Director Jim Mauer is seeing the typical peaks and troughs of Cayman’s seasonal tourist trade flatten out.
“In a nutshell, we are almost seasonless right now,” Mr. Mauer said. He said the hotel had been nearly full through the end of July. A dip in occupancy is expected for August and September, but he believes it will be “well above” previous years.
He acknowledges the impact of the storms that affected other destinations, but believes the boost that Cayman has received could be permanent.
“We have so many customers who had never been to Cayman before and now they plan to come every year. The exposure has done us wonders.”
He said the high average price of hotel rooms should not be a deterrent for visitors so long as Cayman maintains its reputation for safety and first-class service.
“I think we are that five-star island,” he said. “We are seeing our pace pick up even more in 2019 and I don’t see that going away. That is an optimistic view, absolutely, but hopefully I am not wrong.”
At the Comfort Suites hotel, which markets itself as the most affordable of the Seven Mile Beach venues, room prices have also gone up.
Manager Tom Mason said it was a fine balancing act for hotels to manage pricing as demand grows.
“We have seen a very positive increase in rates but we are also cautious to ensure that we offer the best value and service for our Seven Mile location for the many repeat guests who return to Comfort Suites year after year and who enjoy our hotel,” he said.
“It has been great to see these rate increases and it is very encouraging, but we also want to retain our relationships and integrity with our guests for the long term, with reasonable increases that still ensure that we are attractive and offer great value for our segment of the market.”
The report indicates that average room rates have dipped across the Caribbean from just under US$250 a night in 2015 to just over US$218 in the first half of 2018. Competition from lower-priced Airbnb rooms is cited as one contributory factor.