Tourist arrivals dip slightly


As published by the Cayman Compass

About 2,300 fewer cruise passengers arrived in May compared to May 2104. – Photo: Chris Court

The number of visitor arrivals in Cayman for the month of May dipped slightly compared to last year, but the western Caribbean tourism hub managed to maintain an overall increase in visitors so far in 2015.

The islands saw about 1,800 fewer stay-over visitors this May than in May 2014, which happened to record the largest number of stay-over visitors to the Cayman Islands in that month for the past 15 years. May 2015 finished just behind it, with more than 29,000 people coming to the islands to stay overnight.

Cruise tourism numbers for May declined slightly as well. About 2,300 fewer cruise passengers – a 2.5 percent drop – arrived this May compared to May 2104.

The relatively small decline in May visitors to the Cayman Islands did not make a big dent in the territory’s overall tourism performance for the year so far.

From January to May this year, nearly 181,000 stay-over visitors have been recorded, compared to about 176,000 at the same time last year. Cruise passengers during the same period of 2015 topped 814,000 people, while January through May 2014 saw a total of 775,000.

The air arrival figures are typically considered the most critical factor in the success of the tourism industry, since stay-over visitors outspend their cruise passenger counterparts. The stay-over figures have been rising steadily since the financial crisis of 2008-2009 and hit a 15-year high in 2014.

In April, however, Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said that the numbers will start to plateau this year due to a shortage of hotel beds.

“We have reached the saturation point and are experiencing the first signs of limitations in capacity,” he told industry leaders at the Cayman Islands Tourism Association’s annual general meeting in April.

He said last year’s “double-digit” increase in tourism numbers would not be repeated in 2015, predicting a rise of around 5 percent in arrivals for the year. The numbers for April represent a half a percent increase over the same month last year.

Cayman has at least six major hotel projects in various stages of development or redevelopment. None will come on line to assist during 2015, but one hotel – the Dart-owned Kimpton on Seven Mile Beach – is in advanced stages of construction. Construction on a second Dart-owned hotel farther south on Seven Mile Beach is expected to start in 2018.

Meanwhile, a US$70 million renovation of the former Treasure Island Resort property is expected to begin in early 2016, and construction of a hotel at the Cayman Islands Health City project is to begin this year.

The government is also in the planning stages with a contractor on the Old Hyatt hotel site and in discussions for a new hotel property in Beach Bay, Bodden Town.