Tourism opportunities rebounding
The development of new hotels, each targeting a different segment of overnight visitor, is fantastic news for the future growth of Cayman’s tourism sector.
Dart’s unveiling of the design of their new Kimpton hotel on Seven Mile Beach last month gave us all a glimpse of the future when it comes to Cayman’s tourism product. Since 1981, the Kimpton brand has been wowing guests, a pioneer in the concept of aligning a boutique hotel with an adjacent chef-inspired restaurant and at that time beginning to take the idea brand-wide.
The brand has continually introduced industry-leading concepts that have become mainstream. For example, in 1995 they launched the first 100 percent “eco floor” at the Triton Hotel, San Francisco and in 2003 they were the first hotel company to offer complimentary high speed Internet access in all rooms. Their ethically minded service and unique style meant in 2007 they were named by USA Today as one of the top 25 “pivotal influences” in the hospitality industry over the last 25 years. Two years later, they were placed on Fortune magazine’s 2009 “100 Best Companies to Work For” list, placing 95th on the list. Last year they moved to 16th place on that list.
This is good news for Cayman as the Kimpton will bring with it a new batch of tourists loyal to their brand.
Dart has also released that there will be condominiums offered. Details of condominium sizes and prices at the Kimpton have not been released, so it is difficult to draw contrasts and comparisons with other luxury residences in Cayman. However, I believe the development of this exciting project will complement the existing high-end properties on offer along Seven Mile Beach. This type of resort living provides a contrast to the more resident-centric offering of ultra-luxurious, service-oriented residences such as The WaterColours and is also vastly different to the low-density, smaller and secluded residential developments along Seven Mile Beach.
It is good to know that the Kimpton hotel will also be eventually joined by another high-end hotel that will replace the previous Hyatt. Now that government and the previous Hyatt have finally reached a settlement the development of this long-outstanding project can finally begin. This new hotel will be a good addition to the tourism mix, with its focus on business travel rather than the leisure market.
Infrastructure development focus
Following on from the upbeat tourism news, I would like to express a word of concern: The extension of the runway at Owen Roberts International Airport must be made a priority in order to service these new hotels (with some 600 room keys) otherwise the price of flights will rise even higher with the increased demand, and we will price ourselves out of the market, affecting residents and tourists alike. Higher volume flights are required to service the needs of Cayman’s tourists and this can only be achieved by accommodating larger aircraft.
The extension of the runway is brought into even sharper focus with the welcome news that the Health City Cayman Islands hospital developed by Dr. Devi Shetty will open in February next year, the first in its series of medical facilities to be built over the coming years. As I have mentioned many times before, airlift will need to increase considerably if we are to meet the demands of these new visitors to our shores.
The opening of the latest section of the new bypass road leading to West Bay has been another welcome move. Take a drive along the bypass and you will enjoy a smooth and steady drive, absent from the usual points of entry that slow traffic down on their journey in and out of West Bay.
As far as opening up property located on the west side of West Bay to newly interested buyers, I would like to say that time has now come. Property in The Shores and similar areas of West Bay should start to see appreciation as prospective buyers recognize the shortened commute into town that this new section of the bypass brings.
Development of this type of arterial bypass to aid in the access and development of the eastern end of the island now also needs to be a focus. Unless there is the infrastructure in place to support these new private sector ventures, their success will be limited.