Shoulder season is typically a slower time for the Caribbean, but you wouldn’t notice while in the Cayman Islands. Its hugely popular ‘Summer Only in Cayman’ promotion is back, and coupled with the island’s vast array of gourmet eateries and brand new luxury properties, all signs point to yet another successful and sun-soaked season in the Caymans. We sit down with Raymond Mathias, Business Development Manager, Canada for The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism to talk about new offerings and what Canadians would be surprised to learn about this beloved destination.
1. The island recently welcomed Kimpton Seafire Resort & Spa last November. Tell us what the property means for the destination, and how it will help boost its profile.
The new Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa in Grand Cayman is a fantastic property and a welcome addition to our wide range of accommodations. As the first major hotel development to open in Grand Cayman in a decade, it’s no surprise that the resort is receiving major buzz in the media and consumer response has been strong. The design is truly Kimpton, very unique with modern design elements, and a focus on friendly, high-quality service that includes signature touches like tablets in every room featuring all that’s available to guests, a complimentary nightly wine and hors d’oeuvres offering in the library, and a full-service spa with a Turkish-style Hammam. The 266-guestroom resort offers expansive beach views and features two ocean-side pools. Culinary is a key experience at Seafire and there are three restaurants to choose from. Avecita, which offers a tasting menu at a 10-seater chef bar, was recently named one of CNN’s ‘Best New Restaurants of 2017. Other recent recognition includes Travel & Leisure naming Seafire one of the ‘Best New Hotels in the World’ and Caribbean Journal voting it ‘Caribbean Hotel of the Year’.
The resort really compliments our other major hotel brands that include the Ritz-Carlton, Marriott, Westin, Comfort Suites and Holiday Inn – there is truly something for everyone. The Kimpton Seafire provides a unique, boutique hotel experience with all the amenities you would expect in a major hotel and is ideal for couples, families and business travellers. And if you’re wondering where the hotel got its name, ‘Seafire’ refers to Grand Cayman’s celebrated sunsets and the colour of the sun as it sinks into the sea along Seven Mile Beach each evening. It’s a simply magical experience.
2. What else can we look forward to in 2017?
The next 12 months will be very exciting for the destination with numerous festivals and events celebrating milestones. As the Culinary Capital of the Caribbean, we’re looking forward to the 10th anniversary of Cayman Cookout in January 2018; Pirate’s Week (Nov. 9-13), the Caribbean’s best pirate festival, celebrates its 40th anniversary; while the Flowers Sea Swim (June 10), an open water one-mile swim along Seven Mile Beach, celebrates 25 years. We’re also celebrating 60 years of recreational scuba diving in the Cayman Islands and diving enthusiasts shouldn’t miss the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame exhibit in George Town.
In terms of development, phase one of the 200-room/90-residences St. James Point project is underway, and the $360 million Ironwood development featuring a resort hotel and an Arnold Palmer-designed golf course is on the horizon. Health City Cayman Islands, a world-class medical and surgical facility in Grand Cayman will also open a 185-room hotel for patients and their families. And redevelopment of Owen Roberts International Airport in Grand Cayman will greatly improve the visitor experience with an expanded check-in hall, baggage area and departure hall.
On the attractions front, the Motor Museum, an amazing personal car collection that is a must-see for car enthusiasts, has just reopened with new collections added, while the Cayman Crystal Caves attraction which features incredible underground limestone caves, is proving popular with those looking for adventure. Camana Bay, celebrating its 10th anniversary, is Grand Cayman’s modern new town centre, and is constantly evolving with new restaurants added and the weekly Farmer’s Market and Flavour Tour dining event, which is a huge draw to foodies.
3. The destination is bringing back its successful Summer Only in Cayman promotion. What is it, what does it include, and how much of a boost would you say this will have on shoulder-season arrivals?
Our popular Summer Only in Cayman promotion just began and provides Canadians up to 45% off with unique offers on accommodations, attractions, watersports, dining and more. When you book a vacation by June 30, 2017, you are free to travel between June 1 and Sept. 4 to take advantage of the exclusive deals from our partners. And this year, Air Canada is offering great fares from major gateways across Canada at aircanada.com.
Last year, the Summer Only in Cayman promotion was extremely well received and we saw arrivals rise on average 20% in the summer period. Traditionally, this is a shoulder season for the Caribbean, so we know that this promotion really motivates travellers to put the Cayman Islands on their consideration list for summer travel. Given the popularity of this promotion, we’re anticipating this will provide another boost for our arrivals this summer. For more information about the promotion, the visitcaymanislands.ca site has all the details and offers. And keep an eye out for our Fall Only in Cayman promotion, which is another great time to travel to the destination. The off-season is an excellent time to visit with more affordable options available for couples, families and groups.
4. The Cayman Islands has long been regarded as a luxury destination. Are you focusing on appealing to other markets, like family, romance, etc.?
We’re really proud of the fact that the Cayman Islands was voted ‘World’s Friendliest Country’ by Forbes Magazine, and our Caymankind philosophy of providing a warm welcome to all who visit makes the destination a popular choice among Canadians with close to 60% of visitors returning for another vacation. Travellers receive a high quality holiday with relaxing, hassle-free beaches, incredible watersports and scuba diving opportunities, an excellent range of land-based and natural attractions, and of course, superior accommodations. Most of our major hotel brands including the Ritz-Carlton, Westin and Marriott, have all received multi-million dollar renovations within the last two years, so visitors will find modern hotels and high-quality service provided at every turn.
In terms of building the business, we’re very focused on going after the condo/villa market because research shows us that multi-generational travel is trending and we have an incredible range of condo/villa product to choose from in Cayman. With close to a third of Canadians staying at condos and villas, this provides agents with great opportunities as many of these bookings offer commissions. We’re working to communicate the varied options that are available to travellers, from guesthouses and B&Bs, to beachside condominiums and luxury villa rentals (some even have butler service) that appeal to every taste and budget while providing incredible value and quality.
And as I mentioned, our annual Summer and Fall Only in Cayman promotions appeal to shoulder-season travellers with deals that make Cayman attractive and reasonable for families and couples to visit.
5. What’s one thing most travellers would be surprised to learn?
Many travellers are surprised to learn that we are the Culinary Capital of the Caribbean! We have over 200 restaurants to choose from, offering great diversity, quality and selection when it comes to the dining scene, including amazing sea- and farm-to-table dining experiences. There are over 140 nationalities represented in the Cayman Islands and this is reflected in the culinary options available to visitors. The destination has the most Wine Spectator Award-lauded restaurants in the Caribbean. There’s also an incredible array of high quality, annual culinary events like chef Eric Ripert’s, star-studded Cayman Cookout, Taste of Cayman which features local restaurants, Cayman Cocktail Week, Restaurant Month and much more.
You may have also heard, we are renowned for our Sunday brunch scene. Numerous restaurants around Grand Cayman offer up incredible brunch menus and Sunday is a day to just chill…and eat!
Visitors and foodies alike will enjoy Camana Bay’s weekly Farmer’s Market and Flavour Tour, which is a progressive dinner event that is not to be missed. Local delicacies like the invasive lionfish is a unique food experience available on numerous menus island-wide and visitors can try authentic Caymanian cuisine like cassava, snapper or mahi mahi served ‘Cayman Style’, turtle stew, conch fritters and much more at roadside stands like Seymours Jerk or Miss Vivine’s Kitchen. Or head over to Cayman Brac and visit Le Soleil D’or for a tour of their 20-acre organic garden that grows on top of a scenic 140-foot bluff. The boutique hotel is a farm- and sea-to-table experience offering private chef services, cooking classes and more to those who stay on property. And that’s just a small taste of what’s on offer! You can see why the Cayman Islands has earned the reputation as the Culinary Capital of the Caribbean.