Minister hedges over tourism recovery for 2024

| 08/02/2024 | 40 Comments
Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan at the Chamber Economic Forum

(CNS): The total number of visitors to the Cayman Islands by air and sea in 2023 easily exceeded the tourism ministry’s original target of 80% of the figures for 2019, the last full year before the borders were closed as a result of the pandemic. Last year, 429,284 stayover visitors arrived, which is 85% of 2019’s record-breaking numbers. Despite the rebound, Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan is aiming to reach 95% of 2019 numbers in 2024 rather than match that year’s arrivals.

“For 2024, I have set a conservative target of 478,000 visitors, which is an 11% increase over 2023 and 95% of 2019’s stayover arrivals,” Bryan said at the recent Chamber of Commerce Economic Forum. “It is important to note that returning to 2019 numbers is a benchmark. It’s not the ceiling. Continued growth in visitor arrivals beyond 2019 numbers will continue to occur incrementally, driven by increases in room stock and airlift.”

Most destinations in the region are almost back to 2019 figures, and even though the Cayman Islands was one of the last Caribbean destinations to fully reopen, it is enjoying a healthy rebound. In addition, the revenue that the Cayman Islands Government has collected from accommodation tax has soared, reaching $46.5 million in 2023, the highest ever recorded and more than double what the government had expected to collect.

“This tells us that even though the numbers have not yet fully recovered, we are earning more from our stayover visitors than ever before,” said Bryan. “That’s an example of quality over quantity.”

Nevertheless, Bryan appears to be hedging expectations and not predicting a return to 2019 arrival numberss. The target revenue from accommodation tax this year is just $40 million, increasing to $44 million in 2025, even though room stock is expected to grow this year with the opening of Hotel Indigo sometime in April and an increasing number of rooms available through platforms like Airbnb.

Meanwhile, cruise arrival figures are very unlikely to return to the 2019 peak, given the decision by several cruise lines not to bring some of their mega ships here because they don’t want to use a tender service to bring passengers ashore.

“While I have full confidence that we will get back to 2019 numbers for stayover, the outlook for cruise is not as positive,” said Bryan, who has also been floating ideas about building cruise berthing facilities despite the lack of public support for such a policy.

In 2023, a total of 1.2 million cruise passengers visited Cayman, a 30% drop from 2019. Bryan said that to stay relevant as a cruise destination and protect the existing numbers, which contribute around $200 million to the economy, “we must adapt and be willing to rethink the possibilities”. But he said there was a need to address “the friction that sometimes exists between… stayover and cruise”.

Bryan admitted that stayover tourism brings greater economic benefits. However, he said Cayman needed to recognise the opportunities that cruise tourism provides for many Caymanian businesses and entrepreneurs. “This is one of the reasons why it is important to maintain a balanced approach that supports both stayover and cruise tourism, ensuring the ongoing inclusion and success of Caymanian enterprises on both sides of the industry,” he added.

While some are of the opinion that more than half a million stayover visitors and almost two million cruise passengers per year is unsustainable, Bryan spent some time making the case that the impact of continued tourism growth would be mitigated if visitors were spread across more attractions and locations.

He did, however, accept that before the pandemic, the number of cruise visitors was having a detrimental impact on residents and visitors. “If we cast our minds back to those pre-pandemic years of growth, the industry was booming from an economic perspective. But there were also social impacts affecting our quality of life, as well as environmental concerns,” he said.

“Traffic, congestion and delays became pressing issues, and the strains on infrastructure and the environment began to surface. There were complaints about major attractions being oversubscribed and there being no place on beaches for our locals to enjoy.”

Returning to 2019 numbers, he said, would be economically beneficial but requires permanent solutions to fix the traffic and congestion issues and better pedestrian management to improve the visitor experience and minimise the impact on residents trying to go about their daily lives.

“The problem wasn’t that we had too many tourists in 2019; the problem was that we didn’t manage them correctly,” Bryan said. “What we needed was more effective solutions to manage pedestrian, vehicle and cruise passenger flows.”

He told the audience of business members that the government was now working on solutions in various ways, as he outlined some of the UPM’s policy proposals as well as the ongoing roadworks.

See the minister’s full speech below:

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Category: Business, Tourism

Comments (40)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Congrats are in order on ruining our Ash Wednesday with 4 cruise ships and 17k cheapskates.

  2. annoying says:

    Its very easy to recognize or state what all the problems are or was, any MP paying attention knows this and they are always eager to state that they do. On the other hand now coming up with the Solutions is the thing that they do not know what to do. Why is the Minister sill talking about the problems in management of Tourism in 2019? Stating what was needed then is a recognition of what is what we still need now. Only time will tell

    • Anonymous says:

      ..and time longer than rope!

    • Anonymous says:

      The headlines of the gun violence along with the robberies will hurt Cayman”s tourism.

    • Truth says:

      What a bunch a nay sayers and detractors on this post. All you bunch a crunts don’t have any idea of how hard the minister works and you’re there being obnoxiously critical of successes under his leadership and decrying possible outcomes from projections that he and department/ministry staff have come up with based on deep analysis.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know about hedges, but how about Ken tackling long time tourism issues like:
    1. No Licences or Skills of boat operators at Stingray City (commercial or private boaters).
    2. Local hardworking casual boat mates and Captains with no Health or Pension benefits from the owners..but the expats all have these benefits tho.
    3. Restricted Land tour driver’s and guides treated by PTU as if they are permit holders.. ie. locals are only allowed to work for only One tour company.
    4. 90% of tourism tour guides and drivers now on Permits!
    5. No ongoing training for entry level tourism posts like waiters and bartenders – and not held 9 to 5pm. when most people are trying to hold a job. many more high level issues, but why can’t we get these “low level” issues that affect and discourage so many good local tourism workers?!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Only an idiot would think this man is not a fool. Only a moron would follow him. In Cayman islands he is out of jail and in charge.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Should put up some billboards, that’ll solve everything.

    No need for planning permission of course as he is King Kenny.

    All hail King Kenny!

  6. Anonymous says:

    And to think this muppet will be Premier one day? Mind boggling stuff.

  7. Anonymous says:

    waffle King poster boy

  8. Anonymous says:

    This guy is still here. If your proposal of upping duty rates comes into play you will make the place even more expensive and with a economical down turn it will draw less people here. I’m not an economical genius, but I figured that out. Drop prices, make things more desirable and make more in volume. No American (I am not American) would want to pay $10 USD for a beer on vacation. Simple. Volume makes money ask Walmart.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Increasing tourism increases property purchasing, increase population and it increases work permits. But he wants to protect Caymanians from their culture being destroyed.

    What door knob!

  10. Anonymous says:

    You can have a cruise dock, or good beaches – you choose! Your projections and ignoring the will of the public cost us and our next generations EVORYTHING!

    If the cruisers double, but the stayover EVAPORATES due to loss of beaches, where doe that put us?

  11. Anonymous says:

    Better than the ones at the South Terminal though still. They been locked for how many years now?

  12. Anonymous says:

    There is a serious lack of transparency when it comes to the quality of overnight tourism. The majority of our accomodations are condos and AirBnBs and those people are increasingly bringing a lot of their own food, eating a few meals out and enjoying their time at the beach. Happy to have those people enjoying Cayman but I’d question how much these people are really benefiting the local economy if you’re not the government collecting fees or the owner of a managed property.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m on my way down in just over a week for a holiday. I used to stay along 7MB in the hotels until their prices went up substantially and the beach decreased substantially. I used to eat out 3 meals a day, go to happy hour and go to the clubs all night long. Now, I stay in an airbnb, bring my breakfast from the States (cheaper), usually skip lunch and eat an early dinner. I do not go to the clubs any more as I do not find them as safe as they were before. I miss all the places that have closed along the way (Royal Palms, Tiki Bar, Calico Jacks). I find the places that are open now (with the exception of a few) extremely expensive and it is not worth paying $20. For a drink, so I will just buy liquor at the store if I want some cocktails at night. Traffic is becoming crazy and I am starting not to feel that safe walking around. Camana Bay would be a nice option, but once again, too expensive. I am not sure how many more times I will return, but the island does hold a special part in my heart.

  13. Some guy with odd shoes says:

    I am so sorry that Mr. Kenny is apparently the best-of-the-best, the pinnacle of the government tourism guru.

    It’s not his fault. He’s doing the best he can.

    It’s not enough, by a long shot. The Caymanian tourism sector has diminished markedly since, say, 30 years ago. Back then, dive operations, tour guides, even hospitality staff were all Caymanian. Then, somebody got the bright idea that we could create companies with 51% Caymanian ownership, and hire overseas indentured servants for a pauper’s wage, which born Caymanians couldn’t live on.

    Same applied to the construction industry later on. We have shot ourselves in the foot. It will take a monumental and profound intelligence to get us back on track in a way that benefits Caymanians.

  14. Anonymous says:

    That man couldn’t run a bath

  15. Anonymous says:

    “For 2024, I have set a conservative target of 478,000 visitors, which is an 11% increase over 2023 and 95% of 2019’s stayover arrivals,” Bryan said at the recent Chamber of Commerce Economic Forum. “It is important to note that returning to 2019 numbers is a benchmark. It’s not the ceiling. Continued growth in visitor arrivals beyond 2019 numbers will continue to occur incrementally, driven by increases in room stock and airlift.”

    Total narcissist. If he set the target why does he have so many “experts” under him ? He has no clue how to set the target without being advised and he should not be making such statements as minister

  16. Anonymous says:

    10.47..thank you , Kenny can’t even get that right.

  17. Anonymous says:

    How do you get it through his thick skull that any local business not wildly successful with 1M cruise tourist will not be better off with 2M cruise tourist?

    • Anonymous says:

      Some businesses will of course be more successful though……

    • Anonymous says:

      And all sitting on the public beach- no longer spread out. Even the hotels ( Marriott/ Hampton) are bringing guests to public beach.

  18. Anonymous says:

    eh yo Kenny, the airport mens bathroom is outta papertowel, bud.


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