Cayman tourism – fantasy destination or facade?

| 05/01/2017 | 92 Comments

Cayman News ServiceMM writes: There is no doubt that the Cayman Islands are blessed with beauty and some of the clearest, cleanest and safest beaches of the Caribbean. Our infrastructure boasts some of the finest four- and five-star accommodations in the region, with all the best amenities and most luxurious services. Our political scene is stable, neutral and non-contentious and a vacation on our shores is coveted and anticipated by millions around the globe.

World-famous Seven Mile Beach is lined with soft, clean, white sand and truly gorgeous blue waters – the natural design of our country is intricate, detailed, pure and delightful to all.

We have always been eager to share this majestic experience, inviting any and all with open arms and welcoming them to bask in the beauty of our home; it did not take too many years before investors realized the Cayman Islands had the potential to be a first-class tourism destination.

Tourism by the official numbers

A wealth of knowledge about our tourism product can be gained simply by reviewing the publicly available statistics and researching other similar destinations. The Economics and Statistics Office provides visitor numbers from 1996 to present; however, a notation on the report states that air arrival numbers prior to the year 2000 also indicate “returning residents”.  So, keeping that in mind, let us get a closer look at what the numbers say about our acclaimed tourism product.

Below I have pulled the numbers for visitors by air, by cruise and the total of both and shown the percentage increase for 4 year periods.

Year Air Arrivals Cruise Arrivals Total
1996 373,200 528,000 1,173,500
2000 (Last year resident #s included) 354,100 1,030,900 1,384,900
2001 334,000 1,214,800 1,548,800
2005 (year after Ivan) 167,800 1,799,000 1,966,800
2006 267,200 1,930,100 2,197,300
2010 288,300 1,597,800 1,886,100
2011 309,100 1,401,500 1,710,600
2015 385,400 1,716,800 2,102,200
  • The year 2000 compared to 1996 brought a 5% decrease in air arrivals and a 29% increase to cruise visitor numbers – a total increase in arrivals of 18% in those 4 years.
  • The year 2005 compared to 2001, still feeling the effects of Hurricane Ivan the year before, brought a 50% decrease in air arrivals and a 48% increase to cruise visitor numbers – a total increase in arrivals of 27% in those 4 years.
  • The year 2010 compared to 2006 brought a 8% increase in air arrivals and a 17% decrease to cruise visitor numbers – a total decrease in arrivals of 14% in those 4 years.
  • The year 2015 compared to 2011 saw a 25% increase in air arrivals and a 22% increase to cruise visitor numbers – a total increase in arrivals of 23% in those 4 years.

Whilst the final and most recent numbers appearing on the ESO website for the year 2015 must be praised because it is the first time in almost 20 years that there has been a measured increase across the board for our tourism arrivals, I cannot help but wonder why the numbers are not higher after numerous years specializing in and investing billions of dollars towards a single industry.

For example: throughout the entire 19 year period, with all its highs and lows, between 1996 and 2015, our tourism industry has seen only a 3% increase in air arrivals, a 115% increase in cruise passenger arrivals, and an 11% increase in cruise ship arrivals and a total increase in visitor arrivals of 79%.

3% air arrival increase in 19 years! Why?

The PRIMARY difference between the Cayman Islands and any other Caribbean destination which offers first-class service and pristine natural beaches and surroundings is not simply safety, service and amenities – it is cost!

When any person, couple or family begins planning their vacation and choosing a destination, the FIRST item on the list of planning details is budget – budget will determine location, accommodations, activities, length of stay, chosen airline, coach or first-class, cruise or stay-over, what and where to eat, how much can be spent on miscellaneous buys and so forth.

When compared to other Caribbean destinations (or other alternative vacation destinations world-wide), Cayman is one of the highest. We have spent an enormous amount of time and money marketing ourselves because word-of-mouth is working against us due to the price-tag attached to a Cayman Islands vacation.

For example: if you are seeking an accommodation on Seven Mile Beach for a few days, as a couple you must factor double occupancy room rate + 13% government tax + 10% hotel fees + anywhere from US$30 to $60 per night additional hotel charges (this apparently covers your bottled water and other things).

So, a standard garden view room at one of our four star SMB hotels will have you paying US$400 + US$52 + US$40 + US$60 = US$552 per night for accommodations ONLY. Then, when we throw in air arrival tax, gratuities on meals, transportation, activities, sight-seeing and tours, nightlife, spa services and other vacation must-haves – we have the formula for a seriously over-priced vacation destination.

The accommodation tax in the Bahamas was reduced from 10% to 7.5% and the overall expense of a vacation there, though still high compared to some others, is much lower than Cayman. Jamaica charges their accommodations providers anywhere from US$1 to US$4 per accommodated room, per night.

In comparison, our government raised the local accommodation tax from 10% to 13% in 2012. This, coupled with a number of other tax increases, has caused the tourism product in the Cayman Islands to be priced far out-of-reach to the many millions of potential visitors who simply choose not to come to Cayman because the value-for-money simply does not make sense when there are equally entertaining, equally beautiful and even equally safe alternative destinations offering similar (and in some cases better) tourism products and services than our little paradise.

Let’s face it, this is 2017 – people are price conscious and would trade their soul to save a dollar, much less so-called safety and “friendly Caymanian people” – we cannot sell this to anyone anymore. People are much smarter with their money and thanks to the internet there is easy access to information and hundreds of price comparison travel websites.

Jump over to a Sandals Resort in Jamaica and you will be paying less than US$3,000 for a 7 day vacation as a couple for a suite that includes a butler, meals, drinks, some alcoholic beverages, a roster of water-sports activities, spa credit, some transportation, maybe even a tour or two, and don’t forget the mountain views and equally gorgeous beaches.

And because of the high price to do business in the Cayman Islands (especially when offering tourism services) there is no single resort with the ability to offer a truly “all-inclusive” experience here and compete.

Cruise visitors vs stay-over visitors

People choose a cruise vacation over a stay-over vacation for a number of reasons.

  1. They can visit a variety of destinations on one vacation period;
  2. Cruise visitors benefit from all-inclusive meals on-board and activities on-board;
  3. Many people choose a ship vacation because it offers more value for a buck (multiple destinations, all meals and accommodations included, etc);
  4. It helps with shortlisting an ideal location for a longer vacation in future

Point 4 is very important to Cayman. We are competing for the visitors who are “destination hunting” – we want them to choose Cayman for their future stay-over vacation without question.

According to official statistics, the average length of stay for a stay-over tourist in 2012 was 5 days compared to 8 days in 2005; there was no date provided for more recent years. Stay-over visitors in 2012 spent an average of CI$241 per night compared with cruise visitors who spent CI$84.

It is obvious that a cruise vacation is a sort of “economy vacation”. Clearly, we can see that the thousands that step on our shore for several hours may have chosen that route to avoid the high price tag associated with a longer stay. A cruise allows a visitor to swim on our beaches or enjoy a popular attraction for four hours for a fraction of a stay-over visit.

Therefore, the chance of converting that visitor to a stay-over visitor is already slim to none unless while on shore they are treated with a perfect experience that would be worth the money to extend – or they can just take another cruise next year and visit again for the same price or less than coming here only.

Many of these people have already done their vacation budgeting and comparisons and realize that they can see three or more destinations for less than spending four days in Cayman, and still get to see Cayman anyway!

The only way to change this is to find a way to reduce the cost of doing business and businesses can then provide more competitive rates with an all-inclusive experience.

While these are both very important components to our tourism success; it is no secret that stay-over (a.k.a. air arrival) visitors spend much more money during their visit than the cruise ship visitor.

The cost of our top destination façade

The irony of it all is that we have increased the tax as related to tourism services to fund a multi-million-dollar marketing campaign aimed at begging people to spend their life savings to visit us instead of “those other places” because… well… ‘we are CaymanKind’?

To get a clearer picture of exactly what we spend in an attempt to market our islands every year; here are the numbers, plucked straight from the most recent government budget:

Budget Item                                       Amount               CI Budget – Page #
Tourism Public Relations Services CI$2.579,261 271
Tourism and Business Development CI$503,021 262
Tourism Industry Customer Service Training CI$851,464 272
Tourism Product Enhancement Projects CI$741,000 276
Tourism Education and Awareness Programs CI$583,891 278
Digital Marketing CI$2,786,485 280
Promotional Activities CI$6,932,675 282
Advertising Activities CI$10,156,504 284
TOTAL CI$22,555,040.00

Although “Cayman Islands Tourism Marketing” may have appeared on the Cayman Islands government budget under many separate names, I am sure most of us can agree that all of these budget items aim to achieve the same thing – marketing the Cayman Islands as a tourist’s only ideal destination.

I would not be opposed to such a budget if the 2015 Government Fiscal Operations report did not show me that our national income as it relates to Tourism Accommodation tax is a total of CI$21,500,000.

The income from Cruise Ship Departure Taxes totalled CI$10.3 million in 2015 and for some reason air arrival tax has no number in the 2015 column of the report on the ESO website.


I would say that the tourism pillar in the Cayman Islands is a very weak one in its current format, supported by media reviews and colourful advertising paid for by public funds earned through imposing ridiculous tax rates in order to finance a multi-million dollar tourism marketing campaign in an effort to increase visitor numbers to an over-priced destination.

It is failing to provide the level of growth we should have by now, it has been failing for years and no $200 million dollar cruise port or $55 million dollar airport expansion is going to save it – these are simply going to increase the costs of doing business and in turn the cost of a vacation and continue to deter the millions of visitors that could really turn this in to a truly profitable industry.

Cayman will never be a Dubai or a Monaco and to even make the attempt is laughable. Our geographic location makes us ideal for an all-inclusive, bargain family or couple vacation destination and here we are chasing the luxury, high-end image that is sinking us into public debt because the volume of visitors in this category is heavily outweighed by visitors planning a vacation on a budget.

The only number that has been steadily and drastically increasing as it relates to tourism in the Cayman Islands is the ministry’s budget in an effort to continue portraying Cayman as the best visitor destination in the Caribbean. As a country we should be veterans in this industry and we really do offer a beautiful, family-friendly destination and it is a shame that potential visitors and their families are discouraged to visit because of costs.

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Category: Economy, Politics, Viewpoint

Comments (92)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    As middle-class Brits, my family and I can only afford to holiday in Cayman every other year due to airfares, insane amounts of tourist taxes and jaw-dropping supermarket and restaurant prices, but we wouldn’t come at all if it turned into a mass tourism destination. We accept that we will pay a price for exclusivity, but if that went away we could find shorter travel times and much lower costs in (for example) Barbados or St Lucia.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Query– How much does the average cruise passenger spend ashore? The dock is necessary to accomodate the huge 5000 passenger RC ships. Won’t the additional passengers getting off of those huge ships pay for the docks?

    My wife and I took a cruise that included Cayman in ’14. All of the passengers on our shuttle boat and back aboard just loved Cayman. Most also had done actvities that must have left considerable money behind. Don’t sell yourself short. Cayman is superior to most of the neaby cruise venues. RC had to basically build an isolated Disney type town in Falmouth, Jamaica to shield passengers from the slum like conditions in the rest of the town. Likewise, the cruise line rents a peninsula in Labade, Haiti that is separated by a huge wall, with concertina barbed wire on top, to keep the real Haiti out. Believe me, Cayman is a real paradise compared to these other tropical island hell holes.

    • MM says:

      Last report I could find on the ESO was from 2012 and the average spend was US$84 at that time, But, from what I have recently heard is that there are figures from 2015 that the spend has increased to around US$111 or something like that.

  3. Alison says:

    Have been visiting family on the island since 1989 and this was the first year we have had to pay the $30 per day resort fee at our non beach front 4 * hotel. The list of things this covered were all standard items previously included at this hotel. With this extra charge it will be hard to justify returning to what was already an expensive island. The bland sterile Dart funded development is also sucking the character out of cayman. Now our younger family members are growing up and doing their own things we will spend our time and less money at other islands

    • MM says:

      I am sorry to hear it; but I completely understand. This is what I am hearing from many visitors to our island. I was at Foster’s supermarket the other day and a couple and their two children were checking out; first time to the island, bought less than a cart full of groceries, it cost over US$300 for the items. On top of that, they were lamenting the US$180+ dinner bill they had the night before and that was why they decided to buy groceries instead of eat-out again! I could clearly hear they had not budgeted for such surprisingly high expenses.

      What a shame and disgrace, I am embarrassed at what we have become.

  4. Anonymous says:

    An airplane leaves point A and arrives at point B. Passenger 1 pays $500 and passenger 2 pays $2500. Both land safely at point B, one a little weary and happy to have the journey over, the other pampered and smiling, enjoying the comfort and the luxury. Why pay $2000 more, because she/he can. Cayman’s product can be a diluted high volume experience or Cayman can be a luxury experience. There’s always room at the top of the chain. Set your sights. Do you want 20 people or 2 people providing the same revenue?

    • MM says:

      People with that kind of revenue may stop in once or twice in their entire lifetime (like several celebrities have), but their budget level will allow them to venture far and wide, globe-trotting, seeing new sights and having new experiences for the rest of their life.

      People who budget and plan their vacations and who are limited to making their one experience count, will find a place, fall in love with it, and return over and over again like so many visitors have through the decades, many becoming residents.

      Do we want a one-time high payment? Or 20+ dedicated years of many moderate payments?

      One must understand the personality of the 21st century population – those at the top are devoted to themselves, whether it be politicians, monopolists or the super-wealthy.

  5. C. H. McCain says:

    Sadly, it will get worse. I vacationed in Cuba last year and it was a blast. You can rent nice casa lodging for $25 per day and food is good and very reasonable. Beer was $2. A plate of shrimp with veggies was $5. A nice lobster platter was $7.50. A cheeseburger at the airport was 50 cents. If I could speak Spanish I would move there! Prices DO matter.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Cuba is about to open to US tourists, and anyone who believes this will not affect Cayman is living in cloud cuckoo land. We have rested on our laurels, not properly considered and developed our tourism product, and we WILL pay a very large price in the not too distant future.

    • Anonymous says:

      Jeepers, where have you been? I hate to say, Donald Trump = Cuba is not going to achieve lift off (for the next 4 yrs anyway). Most of us adjust their assumptions when the facts and realities change, and although some may wish it were not so, the tide has SIGNIFICANTLY shifted against an open Cuba once again. Similarly, it would be a good idea to check the cancellation policy or rethink any ski reservations to North Korea and/or Iran.

      • Anonymous says:

        Cuba has seen such a surge in visitors that the fragile budgets of many tourism-dependent islands will be hit hard if they don’t take action, Frank Comito, CEO of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association, said Wednesday.

        “If we continue to operate business as usual, and we all draw from the same pie and Cuba is in the equation … there will be serious economic and employment consequences,” he said in a phone interview.

        From January to early May, Cuba saw a 36 per cent increase in US visitors from the same period in 2014. It also had a 14 per cent jump in other international arrivals, and Caribbean tourism officials say they expect those numbers to keep rising.

        “Those countries whose focus has been on the United States as their primary source market and who have not felt any competition from Cuba … will be surprised at how sophisticated and effective the Cuban marketing machine has become,” the report says.

        Cuba’s popularity concerns Caribbean tourism officials
        Jamaican Observer
        Friday, June 26, 2015

    • Anonymous says:

      As soon as it opens their prices will go up. It is only because they are insulated and communist that their prices do not reflect the free market.

  7. Anonymous says:

    With it’s mostly tatty stores, with tacky banners, selling under 10-dollar kitsch gift items mostly made in China, George Town seafront is a shameful mess for cruise ship visitors and an embarrassment to the island. Talk of developing the tourist center? Right! All we get is a few plant pots and a lick of paint on some of the infrastructure.

    • Anonymous says:

      You, my friend, are uninformed, or a troll. There are many nice stores in George Town. Have you ever been there? The prices are much less than the same items on SMB. Have you been to Artifacts? Carry? Sterling & Silver? I am guessing not.

      • Anonymous says:

        In my original post I said “mostly” tatty stores. You’ve picked out three of the nicer ones, but what about the majority of tacky, T-shirt and made in china gifts shops? You must have on your rose colored spectacles.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Okay, we’ve got sun, narrow yet okay beaches, clear water, good (but expensive) hotels, and some averagely good restaurants, but so do many other places. Cayman is rapidly loosing it’s unique character, it’s charm, and ultimately it’s culture due to the incessant and unconsidered development of the infrastructure and landscape. Spending so much money on the poorly conceived, nonsensical “CaymanKind”, BS advertising campaign will, in no way, compensate for destruction of Caymanian culture.

    • Anonymous says:

      Cayman needs entertainment at night more than drinking establishments! Think Harbour nights (Bermuda) where they have music, entertainment, food & the tourists & locals gather. Think Jamaica in Negril where you can walk to different venues & hear live music playing in the afternoon & evenings. Music on the water would be nice- where are the boats??

  9. John Lin says:

    If we’re spending $22 Million CI to attract 385,000 air arrival stay over tourists that’s $57 CI per tourist.
    Many of whom are repeat or word of mouth referred customers and would have come anyway, with or without the advertising.

  10. Ingrid Vonderlieth says:

    Nice at the Ritz-but Jet Blue request to be 3 hrs before departure-?? a 10 minute drive-then being LATE 2.5 hrs–and a nasty Government check out-just because I am BLOND -at 75 years old–with a husband 79–give me a break -the US Global entry must have pissed the
    Slender Uniform Maiden OFF–The Stingrays treated us better I say.Madam in Charge take note.Jetblue Dec,26 Flight departed 5;30m Pm.Harry the Horse

    • Anonymous says:

      Utter rubbish. Cayman is way cheaper than most other Caribbean islands for the simple reason that we have no VAT or other taxes. Yeah you might spend a bit more on your hotel Bill. But then you pay 15 bucks for a burger plus 7.5 VAT

      Cayman is paradise. Stop being jealous.

      • Anonymous says:

        No taxes? What about the 22% + administrative fees for every single items imported to the island? What about the 23% reduction of US$. With simply the currency difference Americans save 23% while vacationing there as against vacationing here.

        • Jotnar says:

          You do understand that whilst its called a dollar, its a different currency, right? You may as well say Americans would save 34% on simply the currency difference by holidaying in Canada.

          • Anonymous says:

            You do understand the euro at US$1.04 and the pound at US$1.22 (essentially parity with the Cayman dollar) prices Cayman out of the European market. For the US consumer, Cayman is in competition with Florida, California, Hawaii, Thailand, Spain, Greece, Dominican Republic, Bermuda, Bahamas, all of the Windwards and Leewards, etc. Even without Cuba (a nasty hole in the road) you are far more expensive than everyone else. The diving is the best but the rest is Miami without the good taste (joke.)

          • Anonymous says:

            They do.

      • Anonymous says:

        You pay $25.00 for a PIZZA in Cayman not including tax! Which ever way you cut the cake Cayman is very expensive. Take a closer look at your next supermarket invoice when you buy a basket of basic foodstuffs and compare it to a similar purchase in a US supermarket. Go ahead, add 22% and a sum for shipping to compensate. . Cayman prices are still crazy!

      • Anonymous says:

        5:32 You are an idiot! It costs me more to buy a few basics for a week in one of the local supermarkets here than I’d spend on my entire weekly shop in either the UK or the USA. As for the hotel room comparison? It’s not ‘a bit more’ but double or triple the room rate you pay in neighbouring destinations.

        • Anonymous says:

          USA tax is a bitch. I just came back from Miami, and really, you need to add 10% to your purchase price. Stuff is still cheaper there, economy of scale I guess, but not enough cheaper to make me jump ship.

    • Anonymous says:

      Is this view dull about Cayman. I have never read more nonsense in my life.

      Did you write the Miller Shaw report.?

    • Jotnar says:

      And Cayman is responsible for Jet Blues late departure or insistence on a 3 hr check in how? If you can afford the Ritz should have flown with AA or Cayman – 2 hrs max early check in, and can cut it to 1 if you are brave. as for the extra security, I have GOES, and suspect you were selected either because a) they are required to do random checks on passengers irrespective of GOES or TSA status to meet FAA regs, or b) because you displayed some of the same attitude to the security team as you have done in the post.

      • Anonymous says:

        What an attitude Jotnar toward vistors. Caymankind?

        • Anonymous says:

          CaymanKind is a myth, hyperbole, ill-conceived adverting, propaganda. People in the Cayman Islands tourist industry are no more kind than anywhere else in the Caribbean. If you disagree, provide real evidence to the contrary.

          • Anonymous says:

            Caymankind was once a thing of the past now its more like taking our kindness for weakness now we got foreigners telling us what to do n how to live,next its going to be Caymanunkind

        • Jotnar says:

          So your attitude is that a visitor can blame Cayman for anything, even things that are clearly not Cayman’s fault, and you should just smile and agree?

          • Anonymous says:

            and your attitude is that is it only a visitor, so who gives a Trump.

            Think each tourist is a customer of Cayman, it is usually a good idea for a business to listen to what is good and bad about your service.
            Or does CaymanKind mean only be kind to Caymanians.

    • Anonymous says:

      Check-in 3hrs before a departure in Cayman, if an actual airline policy for a ticketed passenger sounds absurd. It’s a shame that happened to you. But JetBlue’s guidance/policy and lateness have nothing to do with the Cayman Islands nor does an additional random checked baggage security screening at the gate. Again, regrettable that you ascribe these unrelated and minor travel inconveniences to a government conspiracy against blondes and let that misguided belief ruin your visit. Harry would have liked the Hungry Horse upstairs.

    • Anonymous says:


    • Anonymous says:

      If you are so cheap as to flight by cheap airlines a) you can’t complain about the bad travel experience as you get what you don’t pay for and b) cheap tourists are not the target market given that per trip spend is what matters.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m struggling to understand one word of that.

  11. You mentioned the 7 Mile Beach Hotels at over $500.00 per night. But you failed to mention the much lower cost of the smaller family run guest houses at around $$150 per night in winter and $115.00 in summer. We do exist you know. Our family owned and managed tourism accommodation business has been licenced for almost 40 years. We need more of the lower income visitors to our island and for Department of Tourism to promote us and not ignore us as they do.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Consider that (this week) we heard our decision-making, and policy shaping Cabinet ministers, and DOT committees talking about the “cold winters” of the snow-free cosmopolitan centers of South America – whose year-round temperatures average among the most temperate and lovely on the planet. Clearly, they haven’t the faintest global almanac knowledge base from which to reasonably plan our future or manage our resources. It would be funny if it didn’t involve every one of us, who subsequently bear the financial consequence of their chronic incompetence and inadequacies.

    • Prince of Watering Place says:

      Moses K proving himself to be a real clown with the South American announcement

  13. Anonymous says:

    I think another way to look at it is the cruise ships have grown their business a 115% in two decades while the Cayman DOT has only grown 3%.

  14. Anonymous says:

    MM cares so much about this country and its people! You need people like him in your Government. Thank you MM!

  15. Jotnar says:

    Sobering stuff. Particularly interested in why there is no entry for air arrival taxes in the governments revenue for 2015? At 385000 arrivals, not including returning residents, that has to be a pretty sum. Why is it not being accounted for? Is it harvested directly by the airport authority?

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, they harvest daily. Then they use the harvest to run three airports that have to comply with international standards. They also have some employees who need payment for their work.

  16. Anonymous says:

    THIS JUST IN…The Cayman Islands has primarily been a scuba diving destination for the wealthy North American family traveller, as evidenced by over 39 shops listed in our Yellow Pages. We should not overlook our unique appeal or take our rare bathymetry and biodiverse habitats for granted (for comparison, over all of the islands and landmass of the Bahamas, there are only 8 or 9 outfits). Scuba diving is not a cheap sport. We need to understand our niche. Many of our travelers are in the upper quartiles of disposable income, but they didn’t earn that money by being stupid. We need to provide more value, fewer punitive ambush fees (CIG room tax and Hotel Service Fees), more interesting contemporary activities, and adapt to changing travel trends.

    Historically, most of the non-scuba diving “elite” that have visited our shores over the past 30 years had been drawn by the concurrent “secret world of offshore banking”, through which any illicit historical tax motivations ought to have ended a decade or more ago. Today, those that visit recreationally, leave underwhelmed by the Turtle Factory and Cruise-clogged landmarks like Rum Point and Stingray City that used to feel more intimate, charming, and special. The shops of George Town are not even on itineraries anymore (there being near zero financial lure) – intelligent leaders and businesses owners ought to have foreseen this predictable future before it unfolded in reality.

    Our Cayman Tourism Strategy and Planning needs to become much more sophisticated, and precise. It should take into account who we are, contemporary, historical and future realities, and what we are offering that is “Caymankind” today. Right now, CIG (and certain provincial influencers from the Brac) view ever-expansive Tourism policy (sold as job creation) as a financing panacea to fuel continued profligate spending which we all know should have been reigned in years ago with accountability and audited records. Until we insist on that kind of honesty and accountability, we are looking at amateur shotgun and bandaid approach to Tourism, Infrastructure, and Ecological management that reeks of low-intelligence and diminishes the allure for potential returning guests, residents, and prospective (and necessary) permit holders.


    • Anonymous says:

      Eco tourism is a farce as a savior to this island. Once they have seen Stingrays and know we eat Turtles they are not interested. Disney no longer has tours going to see Turtles.How many people do we have going to see Mastic Trail 500-1000 people? per year? How about Little Cayman Booby bird sanctuary? 200-300 per year ? Lets see those numbers. People come here for water sports. I can assure you that wave runners make a hell of lot more business then all of them put together. We need more tourist attractions that include children attractions. Like a wet and wild.
      Lets be honest Diving is slowly leaking away from Cayman .Cuba will soon take most of the tourist who come here looking for divingThe service will improve as the old is replaced with new upper end hotels. They will be a quarter of the price of Cayman’s ridiculous room rates and better views as they will reaching for the clouds. Who in the hell wants to pay US$ 25 for a flipping hamburger and US$ 12 for a beer? Panama had 165 skyscrapers started in 2011 and sold them on average at US$ 250,000. Today these prices are almost doubled. 60-70 story buildings. The best hotel with suites is Donald Trumps’ Ocean Club 72 story with the top of the line restaurants and bars , US$ 210 per night. Why would South American people pay more then this when this is considered very high to them? We would have to hire Spanish speaking people too. We should keep with our American and Canadian market. If the rest come then wonderful but to bring people as tourists into the country who don’t speak english is not really going to increase profits, not in Cayman.
      By the way wasn’t the the Government total revenue from Tourism in a year $49 million? If I’m wrong can someone in DOT give us the correct figure?

      • Anonymous says:

        Don’t hold your breathe on Cuba. It’s going to be at least four years and likely a decade or more and possibly another civil uprising before the legal infrastructure and case law will develop to where it needs to be to draw major legitimate investment. Until then, Cuba is essentially closed to all but the greasiest Canadian and Spanish Capitalists willing to hold their noses and pay the government bribes -taking only comparatively small financial risks with short paybacks (ie. not cheap rooms). Don’t expect Trump to pick up where Obama left off.

        The mobile elite of South America are highly educated and speak wonderful English (and some more eloquently than many born Caymanians), but we agree that Cayman is not a compelling recreational draw for them except bundled with other business (hedge funds/reinsurance etc). There are certainly many on-island professionals specializing in South American needs (some even acting as local ambassadors to those embassies) that could easily liaise with CAL or DOT if asked.

        • Anonymous says:

          10:57 That’s complete BS and you know it. The Cuban tourism industry has really taken off since Raul relaxed restrictions on private businesses and it will simply grow and grow. Are you related to Moses K by any chance?

  17. Anonymous says:

    Well written but maybe you are missing the point. It seems as the goal is to only attract the higher end tourist with more disposable income versus attracting larger numbers of lower income visitors. Whether or not that is the path Cayman should be on is another matter.

    • Anonymous says:

      So why bother with the cruise ship dock?

    • Anonymous says:

      Be careful for what you wish for. Bermuda wanted higher end tourists and now their hotels are empty and tourism is much lower than in the past. I used to travel to Bermuda 3-4 times a year, but they didn’t want me( a repeat, stay over medium income tourist). Prices went & are still out of control there & I haven’t been back in 8 years. I can go to Cayman or other places in the Caribbean for a week including air, hotel, car ( & some destinations food) for what it costs for 4 days in Bermuda. Don’t do it Cayman! Currently, I visit your shores 2-3 times a year.

  18. B. Hurlstone says:

    Well written and very informative. Thanks. Now let’s hope our leaders read it!


  19. Veritas says:

    We have the best beach but unfortunately it is full of politicians and civil servants all with their heads in the sand.

  20. Anonymous says:

    You need to compare us to the competition otherwise these are just numbers. Your one example of Sandals at $3000 a week for a couple is a fallacy, more like $1260 per night on Expedia. With the Butler service it’s $1900 per night. Tourism growth like the wheels of thr economy moves slowly and 3% growth is nothing to be ashamed of by any standard.

    You have the ability to research but it’s dangerous when you come to these false conclusions.

    • Anonymous says:

      You should recheck your research, particularly on Sandals and other competitors. Most other places are far cheaper.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think a 3% increase in over two decades is terrible numbers for business.

    • Anonymous says:

      10:14 Holidays at Sandals from the UK in mid-February are currently running from £1900 (about $US2500) per person a week and that is all inclusive – flights, food, booze. OK, it’s not $US3000 as reported in the story but it’s a heck of a lot less that the Expedia rate you quote. At that same time the Kimpton is listed on Expedia for a staggering £4394 (plus $420) for a week room only!

      You should check your facts before posting. If you want a really good deal try the Blau Privilege Cayo Libertad (adults only resort) in Cuba. Mid-February all inclusive deals from the UK start at £1100 and it is somewhere I’d happily recommend.

    • Jotnar says:

      YOUR example is a fallacy. Just checked – took me al of 2 minutes. One week Sandals Ocho Rios, luxury room, $3690 plus $165 spa credit, $604 airfare credit, and a complememtary subset cruise for 2. Sounds like the OP is bang on the money, and you are either too lazy to research before posting, one of Moses tame social media minions or just an ass. Oh, and the butler service in a 1 bedroom villa was $4124.

  21. Another illusion says:

    Good research and well presented. You could be an advisor for DOT but hell, they already send millions off island promoting the country as you pointed out.

    My thought is that they want to attract “high-end” tourists so they are not concerned by being an over priced vacation destination. It was probably done by design.

  22. POLITRICKS 101 says:

    This decision to move forward at all costs with the proposed cruise berthing project could result in the final act of political suicide for this PPM government led by Premier Alden McLaughlin plus his MLA’s Marco Archer, Kurt Tibbetts, Osbourne Bodden, Wayne Panton, Roy McTaggart and Joey Hew.

    It is fair to bet that the two MLA’s from Cayman Brac will retain their seats and have nothing to lose under the circumstances but the other members of PPM seem unwilling to listen to the logic and legitimate concerns expressed by multiple stakeholders and citizens of the Cayman Islands.

    The Outline Business Case prepared by PWC by has been used as the justification but was littered with disclaimers by the consultants. It is fair to conclude that the costs of the entire project will increase beyond the projections of CI$150-200 million due to a new design, marine environmental mitigation & impacts and the proposed moving the berthing/piers into deeper waters.

    Are the PPM being secretive with the full details of this project because they are afraid to admit that their estimates are off and the project could cost the public purse over CI$350 million by the end? Does anybody have the confidence that the entire RFP is not rigged with preferred bidders already lined up?

    Where is the transparency? Public funds will be used to pay for the expensive dreams of this government. Would the PPM and MLA’s gamble with their own monies to placate and benefit a select few friends, family members and political supporters? Probably not but each should be asked to explain how and why they support this project at all costs. Let us never forget the multiple reasons the Framework For Fiscal Responsibility was enacted into local law and demanded by the FCO. In short the collective actions of both the PPM and UDP from 2005 – 2013.

    Who is going to finance this project? Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean or a wealthy investor like the DART group but on what terms? Does that include any form of upland development? IF not how will the financing partner get a return on their investment?

    Will tendering services be a thing of the past in the Cayman Islands? What happens on days when there are 5-8 cruise ships in port? The proposed cruise berthing facility can only dock four ships (the plan is to build two piers) Mr. Hew has publicly stated the CI$5.00 per passenger head tax currently used to pay the tender boat operators will be used to pay our partners in this Public Private Partnership.

    Does anybody believe this project will only cost the people of the Cayman Islands CI$200m as the magical figured quoted by the PPM yet the Outline Business Case estimated total costs of CI$150m?

    The recent statement by Deputy Premier Moses Kirkonnell was lacking in depth, substance and details while the timelines mentioned by Mr. Hew on behalf of the PPM seem impossible to achieve but there is an election to be won at all costs so it appears full steam ahead the consequences be damned!

    A few questions that the PPM appear unwilling or unable to answer:

    1. Where is the financing model they promised to share with general public?

    2. Who are the cruise line partners in the Public Private Partnership and how much are they legally obligated to contribute to finance and build the CBF? Is there a guarantee for the total number of passengers calling into port which will help pay for the project? What are the full terms and length of the arrangement in the PPP?

    3. What has been spent to date by the PPM to move the cruise berthing project forward to this point? What is the total budget for this project?

    4. Has the FCO given its approval considering this project will require a financing agreement of some kind and new debt with the financing partner added to CIG balance sheet?

    5. Where are the full details for public review BEFORE the PPM commits generations to another massive amount of debt and another white elephant project like the Clifton Hunter High School and the other derlict projects like the John Gray High School and the other incomplete schools?

  23. Donald Duckbanks says:

    We are going to build a cruise dock, we will build it bigly, the cruise lines will pay for it.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Cayman is too expensive. our restaurants are so overpriced it is disgusting.

    only the rich can vacation here.

    • Anonymous says:

      The food is also awful. It is generally over-sweet fodder for obese fly over state Americans.

      • Anonymous says:

        Obviously disgruntled 10.43-most of our restaurants provide fine quality fare…although I would agree that sometimes the service is not the best…depending on where you go

  25. Anonymous says:

    You forgot the cost of Taxi’s and transportation while stay-over guests are on island.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Pretty much hits the nail on the head!!!

  27. Paradise Lost says:

    Great commentary but you ignore existence of the crony capitalism and nepotism that is currently driving the tourism policies of this government.

    Sadly, the public coffers are expected to subsidize expensive projects that Cayman cannot afford long term while potentially destroying the marine environment that makes the country a world class destination. The current tourism policy seems to be focused on assisting a handful of retail operators in GT on Harbor Drive who have failed to diversify their own businesses while the government take great pride in spending hundreds of millions on construction politics which are more monuments to politicians and their egos.

    Cayman needs to focus on more quality customers and customer experiences not more volume and produce a product that incorporates more Caymanians in the client facing jobs so that tourists meet and interact with Caymanians which is the experience that made our tourism product successful in the 1970’s to early 90’s.

    • MM says:

      Nope, didn’t ignore that point at all – but could imagine how much longer this viewpoint would have been if I had strung in to cronyism? That deserves a post all its own.

    • Anonymous says:

      Paradise Lost – only problem is we don’t have volume or quality, or the ability to produce either.

      I have fond memories of these islands in the early 1990s. Full hotels, dive boats queuing for moorings, great night life, lively bars, very few cruise ships, no gridlock in GT – there was everything you want in a vacation and not ridiculously expensive.

      Now you get nothing (except possibly hassles?) and have to pay through the nose for it. As a friend of mine from the USA recently said, “Cayman tourism industry? What Cayman tourism industry? It’s just a rip-off now!” He’s just waiting for Cuba to open up.

  28. Anonymous says:

    A well written and well argued comment from start to finish but I fear one that will fall on deaf ears.

    While Moses Kirkconnell is exploring decidedly questionable new markets in South America he’s apparently doing nothing to address the issues raised by the continuing decline in arrivals from the UK, Europe and Canada.

    It’s not even simply a case of the numbers arriving here continuing to decline but the fact that at the same time tourists from these areas are still coming to the Caribbean in increasingly large numbers but they’re just not coming here.

    Over the years DoT have spent a lot of money (anyone remember the Simon Calder promos on LBC in London or their trips to the London dive shows?) in the UK and produced zilch – maybe it’s time somebody started asking why that is? I come from the UK so have a pretty good idea what the problem is and part of it is that no major UK holiday operator offers vacations here. Virgin Holidays were probably the last but they took the Cayman Islands out of their brochures about 20 years ago.

    So why doesn’t anyone ever bother to find out why that is? Probably because the answer would prove extremely embarrassing to both DoT and at least one former tourism minister.

    The key to growth in other regional destinations like Cuba, the DR, Jamaica and more recently Costa Rica has been all-inclusive (commonly referred to as AI) holidays – that’s where all the real money is. If you’re not familiar with this concept it’s very simple – a tourist in the UK gives the tour operator a single payment to cover return flights, airport transfers at destination, full board in the hotel, in most cases free alcoholic drinks and maybe a excursion or two as well.

    Unfortunately, DoT regard this as down-market because they equate it with the old ‘package holiday’ image of the 1970s and 1980s but that’s not what’s going on in the real world. All the AI hotels and resorts I’ve ever been to are at least as good as anything we have in the Cayman Islands and many are a heck of a lot better. The other thing is that they are reasonably priced. One week AI in Cuba costs a visitor from the UK about the same as they would have to pay for just the return flights on BA from LHR-GCM.

    Apparently when the idea of AI in the Cayman Islands was floated with DoT about 10 years ago it was rubbished as, amongst other things, unworkable. In fairness to DoT they were partly correct because if you are determined that something isn’t going to work it won’t and that’s the problem. True AI, run by tour operators using their own aircraft is a foreign concept in the halls of power here. The idea that tourists can pay up front for their holidays, bypassing all the perks (can I say kickbacks?) that the current system generates runs counter to the DoT business model and in the long run that is simply going to spell commercial suicide.

    Whether we like it or not countries like Cuba are already outstripping the Cayman Islands in both quantity and quality. Building fancy $1000-a-night white elephants like the Kimpton isn’t going to counter that. In fact it reminds of a fancy hotel in a resort where I used to work that opened in blaze of glory with $250-a-night room rates but three months later was being forced to sell off hundreds of empty rooms to tour operators at $50-a-night. Eventually the bank foreclosed on the place and I was there when they evicted the owner from his apartment in the building.

  29. Sucka Free Cayman says:

    The Fantasy is the realm where our dear government lives in. The Facade is the reality for the cayman people, who are being push out of the very industry they started by this avaricious imported help who want to take and control everything in the tourism industry! The achilles heal is crime and safety and cost$$ which is slowly but surely being eroded away.

    • Anonymous says:

      Well said. As I watch from afar and visit 2 times a year for the last 10 years, I can see what you said happening before my eyes.

  30. Anonymous says:

    You left out the $10M Cayman Airways subsidy which we are constantly told is required to provide guaranteed airlift in markets that would not survive based on the economics. This is turn creates a very high floor price for the airlines. I sometimes pay less to fly to NY than to Miami.

  31. Anonymous says:

    If you fantasy holiday is paying 5 star costs for a 3 star location then Cayman is ideal.

    • Anonymous says:

      8:32 I think you’ve just summed up DoT’s concept of ‘high-end’ very nicely. Guess the folks there spend so much time living it large on CIG’s dime they’ve forgotten what it’s like to budget for a vacation.

      • A Nony Mouse says:

        VACATION?? I haven’t had a “vacation” in over 15 years, as my meager income from our “paper bag tourists” has declined steeply (over 85%) since 1998. I can barely pay my shop rent and utilities in “peak season” while catching up the arrears in rent for the previous “low season!

        Thus far in the current “high season” I have barely broken even and am considering shuttering the business I have been in for over 30 years. Can’t sell it, as it is basically a losing concern for 6 months of the year and more recently is not even viable in the season. Big concerns like Camana Bay and other “tourist traps” have now bribed away or detoured most of the tour business that used to fuel at least a decent honest living for us small businesses.

        • Anonymous says:

          A Nony Mouse – my comment was only aimed at the people who work for DoT.

          Trust me I know a lot of other small business owners who are suffering and several watersports operators who are struggling to survive on the pittance the cruise lines are paying for their services.

        • Anonymous says:

          Shows the sort of entitlement attitude that is a big problem. If this business is not profitable why is the owner not shutting up shop, literally, and doing something that contributes to the economy. Since when does the state owe this person a living?

          • A Nony Mouse says:

            Mr/Ms 7:35 AM: Excuse me, but who SAID anything about “the state owe this person a living?”

            Besides the fact that the owner is well over 70, has no pension (pension was mandated AFTER being over 60) or health insurance (unaffordable at this age), and has lost their home to foreclosure long ago…… Well, maybe you might get the point.

            All the small profits of prior years were plowed back into keeping the business alive after IVAN, however there has been no recovery since then, so all savings and any other available funds are now long gone. Everything was done to try to salvage the business, to no avail.

            Current “payola” and corruption situations have steered away most of the tours that used to be the mainstay of the business. Tell me, most omniscient one, what else can be done at this point? Having been a “productive member of the economy” for well over 50 years of perseverance and hard work counts for nothing in your estimation?

            What a truly heartless POS you are! God forbid you face a similar situation in your supposed “golden years!”

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