(CNS): The spread of Zika virus in the region, the weakening of the British pound, terrorism attacks in Europe curtailing travellers and constraints on Cayman’s own room stock were just some of the challenges the tourism sector faced in 2016, but tourist arrivals still grew by around 2.5% nonetheless. For more than six years overnight guest numbers have increased, and while this year may match or at least get close to last year’s figures for stay-over visitors once the December figures are in, cruise tourism has helped sustain the sector.
More than 1.5 million cruise visitors had sailed into the Cayman Islands by the end of November, putting 2016 on target for passing the end of year figure for last year. Over all, by the end of November tourism was still up by 2.48% overall.
Between January to November 1,863,492 visitors were welcomed to the islands compared to a total of 1,818,322 over the same eleven months in 2015.
“Despite several challenges over the course of the year, I am pleased that both air and cruise arrivals continue to register growth,” said Tourism Minister 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.”
He said that having contended with the challenges, he was satisfied with the moderate growth of almost two and a half percentage points. The minister said the sector had manged to maintain the upward trajectory because of “tireless efforts” of the department and ministry staff working with stakeholders in the private sector.
“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,” he said. “From a strategic perspective the policies implemented by the Ministry and Department of Tourism have been directed at striking the right balance between accommodations, airlift, infrastructure and human capital and are working.”
Kirkconnell committed to redoubling efforts to keep the momentum going next year. That should be helped by the addition of the Kimpton resort to the inventory of rooms available, which will be increased again in the New Year when Margaretville is now expected to open. Together, the two new resorts have added 546 rooms to the existing stock, which should help increase the visitor numbers for the remainder of the high season.