We all could use a sunny break, which is exactly what the Cayman Islands is banking on. The sun-soaked destination is enjoying record visitor numbers, a testament to its beautiful beaches, tropical weather and world-class resorts. But how does the destination set itself apart from other luxury islands in the Caribbean? What exactly makes it so unique? We asked Rosa Harris, Director of Tourism for The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism why the destination continually ranks among the top vacation spots among sun-seekers, and what we can expect to find in 2016.
1. What are the latest tourist stats for the Cayman Islands?
In 2015, the Cayman Islands welcomed its highest air arrivals in recorded history with more than 385,000 stay-over visitors and cruise arrivals coming in at over 1.7 million, which is our highest since 2006. Despite a slight decline in Canadian visitors (24,908 in 2014 vs 24,299 in 2015, a difference of 2.4%) due to a depressed loonie and falling oil prices, we are confident that our marketing efforts in Canada are very targeted and effective. We have some very exciting developments on the horizon and are also in the launch phase of our ‘Summer Only in Cayman’ promotion geared specifically towards Canadians that offers up to 50% off accommodations, plus a number of deals on attractions, car rentals, restaurants and more, making a trip to the Cayman Islands very attractive.
2. The Caribbean Tourism Organization has declared 2016 as The Year of Romance. How does the Cayman Islands plan on commemorating the year?
For several years now, the Cayman Islands has played a leading role in promoting the Caribbean as a premier locale for romance. We have hosted the engage! luxury wedding summits, which attract the world’s top professionals in the wedding industry, and this has provided us with a solid foundation among elite romance industry insiders and influencers. We continue to innovate in this market and recently launched a partnership with the wedding app and website, Appy Couple, on their first-ever “Paradise Collection”, which is completely inspired by the Cayman Islands. We’ve also invested in private sector training to ensure our on island partners are tuned into the most current trends and have access to key networking opportunities. In addition, we are creating some cutting-edge materials that will position the destination as the pre-eminent choice for weddings, plus we have some incredibly exciting promotional opportunities currently in the final stages of development.
3. What was the biggest news coming out of the destination in 2015? And how has it impacted overall tourism?
A major redevelopment project for Owen Roberts International Airport in Grand Cayman proved to be a very exciting narrative for the destination in 2015 that will have a significant impact on tourism for years to come. The plan will include a new luggage screening facility, baggage area, departure hall and expanded check-in hall that will greatly improve the visitor experience. The expansion will see the terminal building increase nearly three times in size to accommodate the destination’s ever-growing visitor arrivals. And, our national carrier, Cayman Airways, added to its fleet last year with their new Saab 34B+ jet, making the island of Cayman Brac accessible to international air traffic for the first time, via both Cuba and Miami.
4. What’s new for the Cayman Islands in 2016?
We are currently experiencing a major uptick in development that will greatly enhance our existing luxury tourism product leading off with the opening of the new Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa in fall 2016. This represents the brand’s debut in the Caribbean, and will add some 266 rooms and 61 residences on the island of Grand Cayman. Additional development on the horizon includes phase one of the 200-room/90-residences, St. James Point project; the $360 million Ironwood development that will feature a resort hotel and an Arnold Palmer-designed golf course; and a 185-room hotel at Health City Cayman Islands, a world-class medical and surgical facility, among many other exciting projects. Unique new attractions like Cayman Crystal Caves, featuring natural underground limestone caves, and wellness-based activities like paddleboard yoga and Segway tours, combined with more than 200 restaurants, 365-dive sites and top-notch annual events, demonstrate Cayman’s ability to adapt and thrive in the competitive sun destination market.
5. In your opinion, how does the Cayman Islands differ from other Caribbean destinations?
The Cayman Islands is a leader in the area of travel and tourism infrastructure with superior offerings that ensure a vacation that is truly cosmopolitan and carefree, with all the comforts of home. What’s more, we offer a tailored approach to holiday planning for those clients who are looking for a unique getaway that is specifically geared towards their interests – foodie, romantic, fitness buff, sun seeker, diver – the Cayman Islands is a lifestyle destination where the sky is the limit in terms of creating an itinerary that delivers a truly individualised experience on three distinctive islands. We’re also proud of the fact we are considered the Culinary Capital of the Caribbean and were voted one of the “World’s Friendliest Countries” by Forbes, among other recent accolades we’ve earned. That friendly, warm welcome guests receive is what we call Caymankind, and we know it’s what brings visitors back year after year.
For more information about the Cayman Islands go to visitcaymanislands.ca.