Overnight guests still soaring to new heights

| 28/12/2018 | 33 Comments
Cayman News Service

Cayman Airways 737 Max 8 jet

(CNS): The Department of Tourism’s final release of statistics this year has revealed that in the first eleven months of 2018, almost 411,000 stay-over tourists visited the Cayman Islands, an increase of more than 11.2% over 2017, which was itself a record-breaking year. In 2017 a total of 418,403 stay-over visitors arrived. At the end of November 2018, with the December numbers still outstanding, 410,984 stay-over tourists had already visited, suggesting that the total figures for this year will soar past last year’s figures, which were the highest number of visitors in recorded history.

The success story of overnight tourism rolls on, helping to boost the economy. However, there are very real concerns that the cruise berthing facilities that the government intends to build in the George Town harbour would undermine the much more lucrative arm of the local tourism product.

Overnight visitors account for just over 20% of visitors but they account for 80% of the spending, which is why many people fear that the focus on the berthing proposal by the tourism ministry could prove a calamitous move overall.

Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell has said on many occasions how important overnight tourism is and lauded the DoT for the work it has done to promote this, while the government-owned airline, Cayman Airways, has made a huge investment to expand airlift for stay-over tourism. But Kirkconnell has consistently failed to acknowledge the very real threat to the solid foundation of the overnight sector posed by the push to expand cruise tourism.

“The incredible growth in arrivals we have seen in 2018 is a testament to the resilience of the Cayman Islands through strong stakeholder partnerships, high investor confidence and a national commitment to the development of our infrastructure,” the minister said, referring to the airport redevelopment.

“The strategic efforts of the Ministry of Tourism and Department of Tourism must be continued, to ensure our islands take a holistic approach at addressing the needs of every visitor that graces our shore. I look forward to ending the year with record-breaking arrivals and continuing this momentum through 2019.”

The record-breaking figures so far this year led to the best ever November air arrivals, with a total of 38,172 visitors — a more than 9% increase on 2017. Visitors from the United States increased by over 10%, with the Southeast region recording a 19.44% increase. Officials said this was helped by the addition of JetBlue’s daily service from Fort Lauderdale in October.

Stay-over guests from the Northeast of the US increased by 6.42%, which was also helped by an increase in flight capacity from JetBlue as well as Cayman Airways. The Southwest region recorded a 16.3% increase over 2017, while the West Coast and Midwest region recorded a 15.97% and 4.55% increase respectively. Canadian arrivals also showed strong performance, increasing by 13.2%, while guests from Latin American increased by over 10% on last year.

Officials are predicting that the growth will continue in the first quarter of 2019, with several key events happening in the destination to attract more guests, such as the well established Cayman Cookout in January and the more experimental music festival KAABOO in February, which officials hope will boost arrival numbers.

While the DoT has not yet released the official figures for cruise arrivals for the year so far, according to the numbers posted on the website of the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands, at the end of November 1,725,748 cruise passengers had called on Grand Cayman, a 14.5% increase on last year, despite a drop in passenger numbers by 18% in November.

With well over 200,000 passengers scheduled to call during this December, the year-end total should exceed 1.9 million passengers, the highest number in recorded history.

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Comments (33)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I still think that building a proper research university or being affiliated with an Ivy university to encourage semi long term residents as students will boost the economy more than cruise tourists. They come in like scavengers take what little they can get, but destroy the place in the interim and then leave swiftly. At least students who may be just as rowdy will rent homes/apartments and buy in the shops, have their families visit and stimulate the economy. Then return for nostalgic reasons. Plus if they are all mandatorily required to take a course on marine life encourage preservation. Though my ideal is that any expat granted a work permit should pass a course on marine preservation of the island. So many people come from places where they don’t care for their environment and come to the Cayman Islands and destroy our environment because they don’t know better and don’t care.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Canadian here. I’ve been coming to Cayman for years, usually about 3-4 times per year. Our dollar is at an all time low, getting worse. I’m not sure I believe the hype here? The air lifts from Canada have not increased their frequency? I don’t think ORIA can handle more flights coming in? I guess what I’m trying to say is Cayman has out priced itself for Canadians and there was no announcement, that I saw of increased planes or loads, coming into ORIA. I call BS. Numbers can only go up so much until a plane is full.

    • Anonymous says:

      But Canada isn’t Cayman’s primary tourism market. It is the US and Europe. The direct flights to Canada are bonus for the locals to visit their family, friends, attend university because of the favourable exchange rate. Plus there’s manny Canadians that just decided to pick up and move. Truly Cayman has so many Canadian living here it is little Canada.

      • Anonymous says:

        Canada is so much a market that it has a DoT office in Toronto and packages that go with our two major airlines. However!!

        Now, the CAD is sinking like a stone. The article is about stay over visitors coming into Cayman. What I’m saying is Canadians are priced out. There are lots of other destinations with more safety than Cayman, better diving, and more affordable accommodations and food. By and large, clean accommodation, palm trees and nice weather will cut our mustard.

        I don’t believe that Grand Cayman is like Little Canada, at all. Maybe you have us confused with Americans, Jamaicans, Filipinos, or Brits? Those flights that you speak of, drop down to one direct return trip Sunday to Sunday or Saturday to Saturday from May to end of November. Obviously from lack of demand.

        • Chris Johnson says:

          Now whose problem is it that your dollar in sinking? Had it gone up then your flights would have been cheaper. Conversely my family loves to visit their relations thanks to your depreciating dollar. Also your fine wines exported to Cayman help us reduce the cost to our many restaurants. Plus the education costs are getting less for Caymanians at Canadian schools and universities. One mans loss is another man’s gain.

          • Anonymous says:

            The Canadian dollar is directly related to world oil prices. As you might have noticed if you got off island, for the past 5 months fuel prices have dropped in both the U.S. and in Canada, Yesterday, fuel was selling for 98 cents a liter CDN in British Columbia.

          • Anonymous says:

            Right but your family flying back and forth here is not contributing to the tourism numbers of which THIS particular article speaks.

            I’m glad you and your family enjoy my home so much. I’m proud to say it is the best country in the world. Even when our dollar is down, compared to the US dollar, we can still enjoy our vast country. We don’t enjoy Cayman anymore and that was my point.


    • Anonymous says:

      Cayman losing its repeat customers- their real bread & butter.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Overnighters spend more money per person than the cruise trippers. Also if you read the following example from Venice, Italy:


    There is also such a thing as too much tourism, which as an Island would destroy its appeal.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Invest in a bigger airport not a stupid cruise port. Overnighters spend more.

    • Anonymous says:

      10:08 Jetways would be nice.
      Not nice is getting drenched embarking or disembarking.
      Jetways can be added. Why have they not been?

  5. Anonymous says:

    The hotel/air prices are soaring, too. Can’t justify the price anymore for a winter GC holiday. Many other affordable beaches/sun that aren’t gouging you for your dollar since the hurricanes on other islands.

    • Anonymous says:

      Try air bandb

    • Anonymous says:

      As has been posted on many occasions before – despite the current boom you get 5 Star prices with 2 or 3 Star service. That’s why we’ve lost the UK/European market and a substantial chunk of the Canadian business we used to have to places like Cuba.

      I’ve just done some online checking of February/March rates here. $300 a night for what is basically a motel room, $500 a night at the old TI resort, well over $1000 at the Kimpton and $3000 at R-C – all plus taxes! For what the Kimpton want for a three-night room-only stay two tourists from the UK can do two weeks on an all-inclusive (food, booze, flights & transfers) package to Cuba and for what R-C are asking I’d rather go somewhere like Sandals. I don’t know who pays these daft rates but trust me it ain’t going to last. Put it this way – being the most expensive destination in this region is nothing to be proud of.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Genuine question from an interested ex-pat. Who owns the majority of the retail shops in the centre of town?

    • Anonymous says:

      DART and the Kirkconnell family own most of the retail shops in the centre of town. If the cruise berthing facility is built, then the Kirkconnell family will sell their shops to DART.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Make the most of it. We’re simply cashing in on the fact that several other popular destinations in the region are still recovering from hurricane damage.

  8. Anonymous says:

    In any developed country the public areas are reserved for the general public. But 7 Mile public beach is allowed to have PRIVATE businesses operate there. MLAs need to have some BACK BONE and get rid of these vendors…….obviously they’re incapable of fore seeing the MAJOR issue coming with the proximity to KAABOO. Take a look at Florida for a guide and then look at Jamaica and any other Caribbean

  9. Anonymous says:

    The line up for Kaboo is incredibly poor. Seriously, why scrape the barrel and charge the earth?

    • Anonymous says:

      With the increased hotel/ air fees and no desire to go to an expensive Kaboo concert( don’t care for line up for price),I am bypassing Cayman this year for my February holiday trip. Been coming down for decades in February. ?

    • Anonymous says:

      They can charge the earth because the demand is there for these acts. Basically the market rules with something like music concerts. If by the first week of February the demand is not there then ticket prices will drop dramatically.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Why oh why do we need to spend over 200 million on a new port with these stats plus a new Hyatt and Hilton in the way for 2020?

    • Anonymous says:

      Trust me the cruise port will cost closer to 400 million. Moses and Alden have been telling porky pies to the public from day 1.

      • Anonymous says:

        When cost of a new and sophisticated port in Miami, which included buildings, was under $100 mil.

      • Anonymous says:

        Looking forward to knowing the final cost for the new airport. Bet it will be close to the same price as the Canadians proposed, without all of the locals being trained in Canada. A new airport will be opening in Bermuda in 2019 built by the Canadians with 8 jet ports so visitors will not get wet in the rainy season. Certain it will end up costing the same as our new airport without Bermuda having to take on a massive new debt.

      • Anonymous says:

        6:50, And still nobody knows how the financing is going to come about for the new port. Does anyone in CNS land know?

        • #CAYMANKIND says:

          Moses Alden and this government cannot afford to be honest and share the financing costs or anticipated total turn key costs. Everything they do is an expensive mess for Cayman. The port project will make the Clifton Hunter school look like value for money (sarcasm) in comparison.

  11. Anonymous says:

    But if we did not have cruise tourism what would all the foreign taxi drivers do? They have at least 5 years before such vehicles are driverless.

    • Anonymous says:

      Ah, imagine what happens to all of us when the taxi and bus driver jobs no longer exist in perhaps as soon as 10 years time due to automation and insurance requirements. How is government planning for these persons to be employed? Civil service?

    • Anonymous says:

      Fingers crossed we can get rid of them!

  12. Pent Louse says:

    It is certainly true that overnight visitors are soaring to new heights. Every year more and more high rise condos are built on the West Bay beach and every other year it seems Planning grant an extension to the height limit allowing even more storeys.

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