Air arrivals heading for record-breaking year

| 02/08/2017 | 12 Comments

(CNS Business): As the tourism sector passes the halfway mark for 2017 government officials are confident that the Cayman Islands will enjoy another record-breaking year as a destination for overnight visitors. If the numbers continue Cayman can expect to see at least 400,000 guests this year. Following the highest visitor arrivals for any April on record, the air arrivals for June, according to the latest government statistics, were up by almost 13% on the same month last year.

Overnight visitors in June totalled 38,729 people, 4,407 more than last year, despite a fall in travellers from Europe. Tourists from the US grew by 18.85% over June 2016 and visitors from Latin America were up 45.22%.

Minister of Tourism Moses Kirkconnell said the strong performance was driven by a range of factors all working together for maximum impact. The new route between Grand Cayman and Fort Lauderdale, launched on 4 June, was just one of the elements helping to get more people on island.

“On the promotional front, the Department of Tourism (DoT) has worked very hard to ensure promotions such as ‘Summer: Only in Cayman’ were early to market and available to tour operators and trade partners well ahead of the official start of summer season on June 1st. This led to strong growth across the US in general and double-digit increases from gateways such as Dallas and Houston in the Southwest, confirming that this approach effectively stimulated the market and placed the Cayman Islands top-of-mind with consumers,” he said in a release about the successful first half of 2017 for the industry.

Kirkconnell said the dip in visitors from Europe and Canada was due to a combination of fluctuations in currency and the seasonal habits of tourists from more northern locations but the DoT was on the case.

“Travellers originating from the UK or Canada often stay home in summer, preferring to visit warmer climates later in the year when their temperature drops. Additionally, those who would have travelled are finding their buying power is reduced and long-haul vacations are being postponed in favour of staycations or less expensive destinations closer to home,” stated the minister. “To help turn this around, the DoT is engaging with travel partners for value-added offers and they will also be working with BA Holidays in preparation for the fall. Meanwhile, closer working relations with the Canadian travel trade and media are being pursued as well as tactical campaigns with Air Canada and West Jet,” he added.

Given that tourism is not an exact science with specific formulas guaranteeing particular outcomes, Kirkconnell said he is pleased with stay-over numbers and pointed to the goal of 400,000 stay-over guests this year. “Maintaining an upward trajectory is good for our economy, good for business and good for the people of the Cayman Islands,” Kirkconnell said, as he thanked the tourism industry partners.

Director of Tourism Rosa Harris said the expansion into Brazil and Argentina was a longer term strategic goal for the team, adding they were satisfied with the headway being made and had plans to generate more business from the region.

“Travellers from Brazil and Argentina rely heavily on travel agencies and tour operators, and the department is working with a local agency to help drive demand through these channels,” said Harris. “Cities such as Sao Paolo and Buenos Aires have a high proportion of travellers who align with our desired demographic and are keen to visit our shores,” she added.

Harris also revealed a policy shift for tourism towards more affluent guests in the face of the increase in numbers. “Having successfully raised brand awareness of the Cayman Islands as a vacation destination, our focus is shifting towards accelerating growth in high value visitors from these regions…Capturing even a small percentage of the market would be very lucrative for our economy, since the travellers tend to gravitate towards the higher end of our tourism product and particularly enjoy diving, shopping and fine dining.”

In the face of this positive news regarding stay-over tourists, there was no mention by either the minister or the director of how this success could be greatly undermined by the government’s controversial plans for a costly cruise berthing facility in George Town.

The latest indication is that in order to justify the project and to recoup the costs of what will be the most expensive infrastructure project in the islands’ history, Cayman will need to see an increase from the already high 1.7 million or so annual cruise passengers arriving in George Town to a whopping 2.5 million. Many stakeholders in the tourism sector have real fears that this will completely undermine the improvements in overnight guests who support a much wider tourism product than the cruise ships. The overcrowding at Cayman’s limited attractions such as Stingray City as well as the sheer volume of people who will be in George Town during the peak season is raising the alarm.

Nevertheless, and despite the lack of public engagement or information on the government’s latest plans for this project, officials are understood to be progressing with closed-door meetings about the latest findings from the KPMG report on the costs, which has not been made public.

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Category: Stay-over tourism, Tourism

Comments (12)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    With all this construction in almost every area of the island going on, I doubt we’re sending the message we want to those that are visiting us. The airport, and almost every major roadway is all torn up and under construction. When are the estimated times for completions for each of these projects anyways? EVERY road I take on a daily basis has at least 2 roads that I have to drive through to get where I’m going and I’m sick of it!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Bill Burr has the best way to deal with cruise ships…

  3. Anonymous says:

    It’s a pity the Hon Minister wasn’t a bit more forthcoming with some of the arrival stats that don’t make quite such happy reading.

    CNS: The rest of this comment is posted as a featured comment here.

  4. Anonymous says:

    but um, the port, the port, we need to get in all kinds of debt, and dig up the reef, to build that montrous port… or our tourism industry will not survive without it.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Government better focus on the cruisers too because that is what locals depend on the most

  6. Anonymous says:

    Dart owns or is buying pretty much every hotel on island so they are the main ones benefitting from air arrivals being up.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Why does the DoT feel it doesn’t need to identify the local travel agency that has been appointed to coordinate traffic from South America? What are the specific terms of this contract? Who owns the travel agency?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Great news! Stayover visitors spend more than cruisers! Anyone with brains knows we should put money into the airport before the cruise port.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Another outlet reported that the stayover guests account for 80% of the tourism income in Cayman-so why are we not concentrating on that and forget the proposed port which only produces 20% of the income, could do some severe damage and only benefits a few shop owners? Plus 2.5m people overcrowding and potentially ruining our tourist attractions…

    • Barnanby boom says:

      Because cruisers pay a fee right to gov the overnights pay fees also but there are less of them, but they spend way more

      • Anonymous says:

        The government taxes at hotels almost make it too expensive to stay at them…my bet is CIG makes more out of the hotel taxes than it ever will out of the Cruisers…

  10. Anonymous says:

    Scrap the idea of a cruise port, it will be obsolete if it ever gets built. Instead we need better infrastructure to support the stay over tourists, spend the money on this. I hope that our politicos see what’s trending around the Caribbean and globe and not build a white elephant just to put their honourable name on it.

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