More visitor growth needed to fill future rooms

| 28/08/2018 | 44 Comments
Cayman News Service

Tides condos in South-Sound, a project of the NCB Group, currently under construction

(CNS): Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said Monday that room-stock in the Cayman Islands is likely to grow by around 20% over the next three years, which will require more record-breaking stay-over tourism growth. A recently published mid-year report examining visitor numbers to the Caribbean identified stay-over tourism growth in the Cayman Islands as the highest in the region at 16.5% — way above the next placed destinations, the Dominican Republic at 6.1% and Jamaica at 5.4%. While numbers here are up due in part to the devastating blows to competitive jurisdictions in the region from hurricanes last season, there are other factors at work fuelling arrivals, including airlift and marketing.

But the report also points to some challenges ahead when it comes to the need for more growth to fill the growing number of rooms that the ministry believes will come on-line over the next year few years.

Speaking at a press conference Monday announcing the launch of Cayman Airways’ new route between Grand Cayman and Denver, Colorado, a market that tourism officials hope will fuel further visitor numbers, Kirkconnell said that there is expected to be a 10% increase in room numbers next year, with the 100 new rooms at the Margaritaville resort on the West Bay Road, a surge in interest in Airbnb, a new B&B in East End, as well as the anticipated opening of Tides condos in South Sound and the new Locale site. Kirkconnell also pointed to the NCB hotel, one of two developments under construction at the harbour front, which is also expected to fuel room stock numbers next year.

The regional report published by the US-based property appraisers found that from June last year to June this year, Cayman recorded the highest average daily rates for accommodation, with an increase of 17.9%, but it also hovered around 70% occupancy, compared to 74% in neighbouring Jamaica.

But in order to match demand with the new rooms that the tourism ministry is predicting will be available in Cayman, over the next three years our record-breaking arrivals will need to continue to grow by 12.5%, according to the research, which the authors said excluded the proposed new hotels planned by the Dart Group.

The constant possibility of room increases in Cayman is often tempered by projects that are long promised but fail to materialise, such as the Ironwood golf community and the Beach Bay project, both of which have been in the planning stages for many years without much concrete movement. However, there are signs of real room-stock growth and Dart has largely delivered on all the projects on which it has broken ground.

With the Department of Tourism and Cayman Airways eyeing up more new gateways to the west coast of North America, such as Vancouver and even a flight to London stopping at Bermuda, the DoT shows no signs of letting up on its aggressive push to put Cayman on everyone’s potential Caribbean holiday list.

However, there is a balance to be struck. A key issue identified in the National Tourism Plan was the need to manage the increasing numbers of tourists. If Cayman fails to address this, it could undermine its incredible success in overnight tourism.

Stay-over guests, even though there are now more than 400,000 a year, are not the issue. However, the surge of cruise passengers, especially mid-week, is undermining the experience for the more lucrative overnight guest and putting unsustainable pressure on attractions like Stingray City and Seven Mile Public Beach.

Despite the concerns and opposition to the project, the government is still entirely committed to the cruise berthing facility in George Town, which will increase the current 1.7 million cruise ship passengers who visit Cayman to around 2.5 million.

Given the knock-on effect that will have on overnight guests, growing stay-over visitor numbers annually to more than 450,000 people to fill the planned new rooms will be an even more challenging task.

See the Caribbean Hospitality Market 2nd Quarter 2018 Report here.

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Category: Business, Tourism

Comments (44)

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  1. Beach Guy says:

    Been coming to the CI since 1980…have seen the changes…the good and the bad…you cannot compare the CI with the DR or Jamaica…apples and oranges with respect to tourism numbers…but note this:
    1. You cannot make the island visitor friendly by charging multiples of what tourists will pay in other spots and still expect them to come
    2. If you do not put a stop to the crime that has been increasing (RCIP—look up “undercover operation”) fewer people will visit…that spiral signals the downfall of any spot dependent on visitors.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Fewer visitors is what people want.

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      • Sherry says:

        As long as the streets and all activities are filled with cruise ship people, don’t expect to fill the rooms! I am coming in October and notice that there are only two days that I feel I can leave the condo, that’s two days out of eight. Why would I pay to go to Stingray City with thousands of people. Why do I want to fight the mob in Georgetown?? I also have been coming since 1980. I would no longer walk the streets or beach by myself.

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      • Anonymous says:

        No – fewer cruise-ship passengers (simply because we have too many already, which ruins the experience for air or sea visitors and residents alike).

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you, Beach Guy! And hope the Government will listen to you, as they never listen to local people except those who cry “more”, “more”, as long as they can get the rest of us to pay for filling their rooms and providing that white-elephant pier! No thought to destroying what attracted you here in the first place, over more affordable, more crowded, and with their own beauty, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, etc.

      You could have stopped your last sentence at “spot” (i.e. “that spiral [started by increasing crime] signals the downfall of any spot.”

  2. Anonymous says:

    It was even better in the 70’s – until Jim Bodden and his pirates took charge, then downhill all the way since!

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    • Arm & Hammer says:

      Is there a strategy to the madness or has the madness really overtaken us.

      What is the value to the people of a country to have its Governments attract Developers of the land who build, contract someone to manage the properties , import 90 percent of the labor force and then the Government must create the advertising mechanism fo bring in the tourists( advertising oh sorry marketing budget of cayman airways and Dept of Tourism being considerably larger than that of the entities who now can put up up to 10 stories) ). Added thereto is the cost of new infrastructure and constant upkeep of it all which is out of the people’s coffers ah well, the people who are contributing by indirect taxation, based on low wages, reduced access to services by huge inflows of transient workers and yes the tourists, all put together in a 7 square mile area. Wow utter madness.

      Well, was there or is there ever a thought of really looking at what it costs the country in terms of each investment that is made say over a ten year period and whether there is a gain or loss to the people’s way of life, to the governments coffers to the future generations. Case in point is the hot marmalade cruiseport facility. Has there ever been any thought given to look at quality over quantity in the decision making process of the Tourism industry in general. Is there any understanding of management of cruise passengers in a limited space environment in the port area of George Town, the answer is no it cannot be done in a customer friendly and safe environment even if you block the limited road space from public traffick.

      There seems to be purely a thought process of increasing number of this and increasing number of that but nary a word or thought of the way of life of “the people” present and future. All the money coming in still we have to import people for it seems that someone from outside has dictated that your people are not sufficiently educated ; yet you bring in more tourism business, also more companies in and you still have a shortfall of your people being gainfully employed, and a bursting through the seams prison population. Sheer and unadulterated madness I say.

      Hear this my people , this madness cannot continue. We need to control our destiny not give it away for the sake of somebody’s agendas which does not consider our well fare, our cost of living, our way of life present and future. It is time for a change to the way we look at the Tourism industry and to whom the net gains go to. Right now it is evident that the considerations needed to ensure a net gain to the people of these Islands are not in place , and that there is only a strong pursuit of high numbers in all aspects including buildings , but no vision as to present and future impacts on our quality of life. Are we so blinded by the Almighty Dollar that we Fail to see that what we are building is not for our future but that of other people. The old adage of who are we buiduing for is no more instead we are now and until a mindset change occurs are in a “Hell of a Mess”.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Let the developers and investors worry about whether they can fill the hotels. Apparently they are confident and moving forward and everything is pretty full, so why is the government up in arms?

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  4. Jotnar says:

    I hadnt realised the governments duty was to fill rooms built by developers . Shouldnt the government focus on ensuring we dont damage our way of life, infrastructure and environment – and ironically the reason the stay over tourists come in the first place – by over expanding tourism?

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    • Anonymous says:

      spot on

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    • Anonymous says:

      They get revenue from room tax, just for starters. You can’t have a tourism industry without somewhere for tourists to stay. Why wouldn’t they want to fill the rooms?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Exactly! And they insist on doing one-sided ‘book-keeping’ on tourism, especially cruise tourism. Never see any true costs – just the (always rosy) projections of income that will be generated, without any idea of whether the net is a positive or negative. Yet we are invited to join in planning for our tourism future – as long as you do not ask for proof of costs of that mega-dock for mega-ships for the masses (not for the types of ships that appeal to the income-level tourists we need to attract to Cayman) and how they will realistically be paid for. I can just see the future explanations for the subsidies, cut and pasted from the recurring answers to those other white-elephant projects “didn’t generate enough to cover the cost of the capital”, etc., etc.
      But instead, we are told to simply accept “we can’t afford not to build it”. Sorry, even when you can print your own bolivars it does not work like that! Frightening!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Build a longer runway and include airbridges and they will come. Especially as the room prices drop after the hikes of last year with the extra rooms coming on stream. They will have to lower prices to maintain occupancy and that is a good thing, as the last 12 months were most ridiculous prices I have seen anywhere, and may have tarnished Cayman’s name. A friend who knows tells me of families of four (two young kids) regularly dropping $10-20,000 for a weeks stay this year-too much!

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    • Anonymous says:

      No change this year. Delta is charging $1,800 RT for their direct from Detroit during Christmas/New Year’s. $7,200 for a family of four before they ever get off the plane. We will miss you this year. Ridiculous.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Same thing happened last year at Christmas and February spring break. Prices were outrageous. My family went elsewhere when one of those visits would have always been to Grand Cayman.

      • Anonymous says:

        DAMN RIDICULOUS

      • Anonymous says:

        $15,000 for 1 person for the Ritz over Christmas week( air/ hotel) Is everything paved in gold that week? $3,000. at Holiday Inn which is almost as funny. Now, times that by 4 to bring the family. These prices are almost double the norm for what we are used to paying & we always travel at this time of year.
        We will miss you- now two years in a row. Sad!

  6. Anonymous says:

    so why then build a cruise ship dock?????????

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  7. Anonymous says:

    Or…stop building rooms???!

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  8. Anonymous says:

    If that port don’t get built, there is going to be crime here that will equal Jamaica.

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    • Anonymous says:

      If the dock does get built there will be crime here that will equal Jamaica. Clearly you’ve never been on a cruise itinerary that stops in Jamaica. I am Caymanian having lived in South Sound all my life. I’ve done a Western Caribbean cruise and seen what the other stops offer and what the tender process is like here too. Nowhere in life yet have I been hounded as badly to spend money on junk than in Jamaica or have I been warned as much as I was to be on guard constantly for scams and petty theft except perhaps Rome where they have SO MANY tourists they have the same problem (a whole shadow industry made up of scamming and stealing from tourists). We have slums all around the central business district where you read in the court cases someone drew a gun against a police officer or threw a gun in the bushes and jumped a fence or what have you. People like that will make a career out of being a danger to everyone we bring here. All the addicts who try to rob restaurant kitchens in the middle of the night will find a new career in harassing tourists. If you think building a dock is going to provide opportunities to people who don’t currently have them you are not wrong but those opportunities are going to be criminal ones.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Do you have any factual information from studies concluding such a prediction, or are you just stirring pot?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Why you think crime will increase if they don’t build the dock. Enquiring minds want to know.

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    • Anonymous says:

      @6:47 Damn what grade weed you smoking.. I need some. F’n muppet.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    It’s worth putting these stats in perspective. The annual tourist arrival figure for the DR last year was 6.18 million. Over the same period 4.1 million people visited Jamaica, a 12.1% increase over 2016. At 418,403 the 2017 figure for the Cayman Islands is a fraction of those figures. In simple statistical terms you are not comparing like for like. Taken over a full year 16.5% of 418,403 is just under 70,000 or about 1350 a week. It’s not a bad figure but bearing in mind these figures include spin off visitors from other destinations that are still recovering from last year’s hurricanes and arrivals who are not actually tourists, including what must be an increasing number of US citizens using Grand Cayman to bypass the travel ban to Cuba, they need to be treated with a certain amount of caution.

    Yes, we’ve got growth but in a realistic regional context it’s not that spectacular and it currently relies heavily on temporary misfortune of other destinations.

    Will it continue? That a depends on a number number of factors including how the chaos at ORIA impacts visitor satisfaction and whether or not some of these new high-profile projects ever get built.

    And if you want more stats try this one – despite Trump’s clampdown Cuba had 4.7 million visitors in 2017 and had passed the 1 million mark in the first two months of this year.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Let’s out things in real perspective. Have you looked on a scaled map and compared the size of Cayman to Jamaica and DR?? Sus pietas!

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      • Anonymous says:

        That’s exactly the point the original poster made – they’re no comparing like for like. And sus pietas? Pig Duty? WTF does that mean?

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        • It wouldn’t seem that they are making the same points to me…the original poster seems to be advocating for more visitors based on the higher numbers of others in the region while the replying commenter seems to be frustrated with the current number of visitors locally and the aim to increase those numbers further.

          “Sus pietas” is a local alternative for calling the Lord’s name in vain.

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    • Anonymous says:

      What you forgot to mention is that all those places you quoted has a far greater land mass than we have, more beaches, more attractions and yes far greater crime.( Cuba being exempt from the crime stats). I think we have enough tourist for this little 2×4 rock. Let us improve on quality and not quantity. Fix that and they will come. Stop trying to stuff all of these huge places stats into Cayman. It will never fit.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Singapore has a population of 4+ million people on a land mass of 720 km sq. Cayman has 60,000 + on 264 km sq.
        Perspective.

        • Why exactly is “the Singapore model” desirable? Tourists who come to Cayman come to Cayman for the way it is or was. Singapore is overcrowded. Furthermore, why don’t the Caymanian people (collectively rather than forced by Government/Industry) get to choose whether we head down that path or not?

          • Anonymous says:

            Agreed. The Singapore model is not desirable.

            The bigger question may be what is the ‘carrying capacity’ of the islands (population + tourists) but I bet 10 people couldn’t ever agree on the measuring criteria for that assessment.
            IMO- Cayman could differentiate itself by focussing more on the quality of life of residents, attract reasonable numbers of stay over guests, restrict the number of cruise arrivals, and preserve a quieter and less over built version of other Caribbean islands, and succeed nicely.
            However, crowded is a relative term for both visitors and residents. Unbridled capitalism still seems to rule the day. More, more, more. NXS

    • Anonymous says:

      Statistics don’t lie, but liters use statistics.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Not to mention that last year”s numbers were in large part due to other jurisdictions being shut down by hurricanes. If you take away those numbers, my assumption is the overstock is even greater.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    yep and a cruise pier won’t do anything to help.
    actually it will do more harm as good because stay over tourists will not like coming to a cruise cattle farm.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    They continue to give planning permissions to build new hotels and condos on every little sliver of land available and now the outcry is that they will need more visitors to fill these rooms. This now appears to be a surprise to Moses kirkconnell? This is a vicious cycle that will negatively impact the ” visitors experience”. Seems like this monster of greed is beginning to eat itself, getting bigger day by day. Reminds me of a movie called the Blob.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Slow down already. Been coming to Cayman for the past 22 years and it’s not getting better it’s getting worst. Too crowded. Too much traffic. Airport is still a disaster. It was better in the 90s than it is now.

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      • Sherry says:

        I agree completely….The changes that have taken place on Cayman are not good, in my opinion. How I loved the Cayman of the 80’s!

    • Anonymous says:

      Its what happens when you have elected government officials who sit and stare at a computer screen with rolling visitor numbers , $ dials are spinning like a poker machine in Vegas, but they lack the education or business management skills to foresee the long term consequences of over development & the jacking up of room prices we have seen the last year. But hey , you have to pay for that new Chopper somehow ? Looks at calendar and notes 14 years since Ivan in ’04.

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