As we come to the end of the first half of the year, I thought I’d take this opportunity to update you on some of the new developments effecting tourism in the Cayman Islands including new expansions at the Grand Cayman airport as well as some statistics from the Department of Tourism.
Airport master plan and runway expansion
At the end of May, it was confirmed that a new Airport Master Plan will involve expanding the Owen Roberts International Airport runway in Grand Cayman 1,900 feet into the North Sound, at a cost of $28 million.
As well as the expansion of the runway to 1,900 feet – to accommodate larger airplanes on long-haul routes – the government plans to build a new $42 million general aviation terminal and spend $4.7 million on air traffic control surveillance at Owen Roberts.[i] The construction period is estimated to be six years from 2024 to 2029.
The runway extension means that a fully loaded, fully fueled Code E aircraft can both depart and land at Owen Roberts. Code E planes include the Boeing 777 and 787 and the A350 Airbus.
Director of Tourism Rosa Harris said, over the past three years, a number of airlines had expressed interest in adding Cayman to their long-haul routes, including Eurowings, which is Germany’s Lufthansa Group’s low-cost airline; Norway’s Norse Atlantic Airways; and the UK’s Virgin Atlantic.[ii]
Pointing out that about a quarter of Cayman’s gross domestic product is derived from tourism, Tourism Minister Bryan said airport growth was necessary if Cayman is to compete successfully with islands in the region, such as Anguilla, Antigua, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Jamaica, and the Turks and Caicos Islands, which all have made or are in the process of making airport expansions.[iii]
Air arrival statistics
Unfortunately, the Department of Tourism has only published air arrivals statistics through March of this year, but the news so far is quite optimistic. Between January and March of this year we’ve had 120,926 air arrivals. This is down from 145,804 in 2019 but we saw 46,356 air arrivals in March alone indicating that tourists are return to the Cayman Islands. Although these numbers and ones for the end of 2022 are not where we were pre-COVID the numbers are moving in the right direction.
Most of the visitors, 81.36% came from the United States followed by 10.29% from Canada and 4.83% from Europe. According to the mid-year report from 2022, the top states where visitors came from in the US were New York, Texas, and Florida which accounted for 31.9% of visitation from the US market. The average age is 42.9 and 48.1% are repeat visitors which was 3.5 percentage points higher than in 2019. The average length of stay is 6.2 nights which is up 0.2 nights compared to 2019.
Right now, there are approximately 10,552 beds (7,465 bedrooms) in the Cayman Islands and although that is up by approximately 450 beds from 2021-22 there are more that will be added to the inventory once several new hotels are opened including the Grand Hyatt, Kailani Hilton, Mandarin Oriental, and Hotel Indigo, among others.
Tourism and real estate
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles tourism and real estate in the Cayman Islands are strongly connected. As you read above, 48.1% of our visitors are repeat visitors. They come to our islands, fall in love, and make additional trips in the future.
Many of these visitors decide to purchase real estate in the Cayman Islands be it a home they can relocate to or live in part of the year, a vacation home, or an investment. As more and more visitors continue to return to our islands, some of them for the first time, more and more people will be interested in buying their own slice of paradise.
As the numbers of people visiting our islands gets stronger especially as we get into high season this year, the number of people interested in buying real estate here will also increase. Although some buyers buy “sight unseen” the reality is that most foreign buyers visit Cayman first before deciding to buy and in fact many are here on holiday and start investigating real estate options while they are down visiting.
So, what does this all mean? Even though there has been a slowdown in the real estate market in the Cayman Islands it is still a seller’s market as inventory continues to remain low and new inventory is not filling the void quick enough. I will provide a full half year real estate market overview for the Cayman Islands in my next article.
Coupled with low inventory, prices are continuing to increase. Even with increasing interest rates and inflation, people are still buying real estate. So, if you see something you like, don’t wait. Not only will it probably not be there tomorrow, but if it is it’s probably going to cost you more than it would today.
As always, my team and I are here to help with any questions you may have about real estate in the Cayman Islands from new developments to land to build your dream home to finding the right mortgage to the best place for jerk chicken and everything in between. Contact us at +1 345 945 4000.