Although government was celebrating improvements in stay over tourism this week, the cruise passenger statistics released by the DoT paint a very different picture. Only 77,735 passengers docked at the George Town harbour in July, which is the lowest number of people calling on Grand Cayman since Ivan struck in September 2004 when the island was closed to tourists. It is also the worst July since the year 2000, when only 61,328 passengers arrived. The fall of almost 33% in cruise numbers on this time last year is a direct result of the cruise liners diverting the new larger ships which are plying the Caribbean to destinations with berthing facilities.
Air arrivals, however, continue to grow with figures improving by some 7.5% this month on July 2010 with 31,407 arrivals, the highest since July 2004.
Stay-over visitors were up for the tenth month in a row and McKeeva Bush who, is tourism minister as well as premier, said the figures were even more significant when considered against the fact that the figures for December last year were the highest for any December since the year 2000
“From February through May our tourism statistics have continued to improve and for the month of June, air arrivals were up by 7.6 percent, over June 2010. This represented the third strongest June arrival figure in 10 years. Furthermore, for the month of July, arrivals from the US are up 7.4 percent over last July, and there is a dramatic 72.1 percent increase in arrivals from Canada this July, over what we were seeing in July 2010,” he said.
Shomari Scott, Acting Director of Tourism, said the growth was gratifying, particularly during these tough economic times, and illustrated that the steps being taken by the DoT were working. Working more closely with industry partners, realigning CAL and introducing new routes to boost capacity are paying dividends.
“By working with CITA and other industry partners, the department has launched a number of new initiatives and promotions that are designed to drive visitation and support local businesses and service providers. Clearly, these are delivering the desired results, as the latest tourism figures demonstrate that the Cayman Islands remains a sought after destination for families, divers, weddings and honeymoons and those simply seeking sun, sea and sand,” he said.
“As we move into the fall season a series of new promotions, including the Visiting Friends and Relatives, Dive Madness and Pirates Week deal, will be on offer to travellers to maintain the positive trend,” he added, stating that if the momentum is maintained through the end of the year the islands could achieving the goal of attracting 300,000 air arrivals in 2011.
The improved air statistics were mostly down to continued increases in passengers from Canada and North America. 1,239 people flew in from Canada this July compared to 720 in the same month in 2010, which is an increase of more than 72%. Almost 800 people visited from the US, representing a 7.4% increase from that region.
Occupancy rates at both hotels and apartments, however, did not improve on last year as in July 2010 hotels were more than 70% occupied compared to a rate of 67.2% this year. Occupancy at apartments was almost the same as July 2010 which was 47.7% and this year it was 47.6%, suggesting that the extra visitors arriving by air are staying with friends and family.