Record-breaking arrivals for 2017 in both air and cruise visitation represent the best year of recorded statistical data for the Cayman Islands. A total of 418,403 stayover visitors, an increase of 8.55 percent over 2016 and 1,728,444 cruisers visited the islands.
For the seventh consecutive month (June through December), air arrivals surpassed all previously recorded statistics. A total of 49,003 stayover visitors arrived in December, an increase of 21.61 percent over December 2016; and an increase of 20.8 percent over December 2014, which was standing as the best ranked December in recorded history.
December increases were fuelled by growth predominantly in North America. Key markets such as the United States and Canada, which saw increases of 27.43 percent and 22.71 percent respectively over 2016; represented the highest standout growth. The USA Northeast region delivered an additional 2,997 visitors, or 28.89 percent increase year over year, making it the top performing region of 2017. The Midwest region anchored solid volume levels with 2,325 additional visitors, or a 37.81 percent increase over 2016.
Commenting on this achievement, Deputy Premier and Minister of Tourism, the Hon. Moses Kirkconnell said, “The performance of the country’s tourism sector and all who played a role in attracting more visitors to the destination should be extraordinarily proud of their efforts. It is the mandate of the Ministry of Tourism to facilitate annual growth in visitation; however, it is a collective effort that makes it a success. I encourage all of us in the tourism industry and its auxiliary partners to use this accomplishment as a springboard for even greater success in 2018.”
Overall annual performance in 2017, marked visitation from the United States and Canada with growth rates of 13.44 percent and 6.37 percent respectively. The Northeast region of the United States saw the largest increase in visitation for the year with 15, 042 more visitors, or 15.71 percent increase over 2016. The Midwest grew by 16.91 percent in 2017, presenting the second largest increase in 2017 by any region; while the Southeast region increased by 13,036 visitors, or 26.94 percent increase over 2016, surpassing the Southwest as the region producing the third highest number of stayover visitors. Growth in this region was driven by Miami-Ft. Lauderdale which saw 4,057 additional visitors, as well as Tampa-St. Pete, Orlando, Daytona Beach and Melbourne areas. The Southwest region grew by 12.75 percent in 2017 with Dallas-Ft. Worth posting 2,060 additional visitors and Austin and Denver posting 1,181 and 1,179 additional visitors respectively.
The statistics for 2017 reflect incremental growth in not just key markets, but also burgeoning markets such as Latin America, which saw a total increase of 22.61 percent. Specifically, South America increased by 8.92 percent, whilst Central America increased by 5.64 percent
Reflecting on a successful year in 2017, the Department of Tourism (DOT) executed a visually arresting and diversified marketing plan to increase brand awareness globally. The year saw the implementation of key initiatives such as the “Worry Free Hurricane Guarantee.” Launched on 1 June, the guarantee gave travelers peace of mind during one of the most active hurricane seasons for the Caribbean region to date. In addition, on 4 June the DOT proudly celebrated the start of Southwest Airlines’ daily nonstop service from Fort Lauderdale to Grand Cayman.
Through a partnership with Chef’d, the only non-subscription, fresh ingredient meal kit delivery service based in the United States, the DOT in June launched the first-ever destination inspired meal kits, curated by some of the most talented Cayman Islands’ chefs. Foodies had the opportunity to bring a taste of the Culinary Capital of the Caribbean into their homes with the touch of a button.
In July, the DOT launched Cayman Vows magazine – the first-ever definitive resource for couples and wedding planners looking for inspiration and guidance on world-class destination weddings in the Cayman Islands. Available online and across newsstands in the United States and Canada, the publication featured Grace and Trai Byers on the cover, who later became the face of the Cayman Islands’ destination ad campaign launched in October.
“Through strategic marketing initiatives from the Department of Tourism and strong, cohesive relationships with our tourism partners, together we have been able to achieve unprecedented growth in arrivals to the Cayman Islands in 2017,” said Director of Tourism, Mrs. Rosa Harris. “I am pleased to see that our efforts to diversify the Cayman Islands source markets such as Latin America coupled with our global teams’ drive to be fearless innovators in destination marketing have taken visitation volume to its highest levels the destination has experienced. I look forward to working with my team and our tourism community to continue to attract quality visitors and offer an enriched experience with the goal of providing value through annual growth in 2018.”
Looking ahead to 2018, the Cayman Islands will also be celebrating a major aviation milestone as the national flag carrier, Cayman Airways celebrates its 50th anniversary. In addition to the recent announcement of Southwest Airlines service from Houston, Texas, the destination will see further air service commence this fall with the launch of Jetblue service from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Grand Cayman.
“Aviation is the catalyst to driving visitation. With increased seats available, travellers have more opportunities to select their preferred airline itinerary. The Cayman Islands will offer over 10 non-stop flight options, this is an excellent opening to 2018 for all stakeholders in the Cayman Islands tourism industry.”