Nearly 2 million tourists arrived in the Cayman Islands by air and sea in the first ten months of 2018 – the highest number in history.

A total of 1,928,534 visitors arrived in the territory through the end of October, eclipsing the previous record, set in 2006.

The figure represents an 18 percent increase – nearly 300,000 additional tourists – over the same period last year.

In the more lucrative stayover market, a total of 372,812 visitors arrived by air in the first ten months of the year – an 11.5 percent increase on 2017, which was itself a record year for air arrivals.

Cruise arrivals are up 20 percent. Nearly 1.6 million passengers had arrived at the cruise port by the end of October. That figure is expected to swell to 1.94 million by the end of the year.

Speaking in the Legislative Assembly on Friday, Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell attributed the surge in cruise tourism arrivals to the hurricanes that impacted the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos and other competitor destinations last year.

He said, “From August 2017, the Cayman Islands began receiving cruise calls from ships that had been diverted from ports in the Eastern Caribbean. This unexpected boost in passenger arrivals allowed us to end 2017 one percent up over the previous year’s arrivals. Had this not occurred, cruise arrivals for 2017 would have registered a significant decline.

“In 2018, Grand Cayman has continued to benefit from additional cruise calls while ports in the Eastern Caribbean incrementally come back on stream.”

He said this windfall of passengers was expected to reduce next year as more ships return to their original schedules. Cruise arrivals are forecast to drop by 5 percent to 1,848,511 passengers in 2019.

Mr. Kirkconnell said he was satisfied with the upward trajectory of the tourism industry as a whole since 2013. He attributed this to government activity, public-private collaboration and community participation.

The Tourism Minister also announced that Southwest airlines will be adding seasonal service on Saturdays between Baltimore/Washington and Grand Cayman effective June 15, 2019.