Cayman Islands: Over half million stayover visitors in 2019
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The Cayman Islands ended the decade with record-breaking air arrivals, highlighting another year of steady growth in airlift and accommodations. For the calendar year 2019, air arrivals reached 502,739 which represents an 8.6 percent increase over the same period in 2018—or 39,738 additional persons. This is the highest number of stayover visits in recorded history (surpassing Jan-Dec 2018) and tenth consecutive year of annual growth in stayover visitation.
Overall, the top source markets for stayover arrivals continued their impressive growth with an increase in arrivals from the United States (33,293 more visitors than 2018), Canada (3,525 more visitors than 2018), and United Kingdom (829 more visitors than 2018).
According to statistics provided by Cayman Airways, Cayman Brac arrivals—which includes both visitors and residents—were up seven percent, approximately 4,350 more passengers in 2019 as compared to 2018 and totalled 62,911 passengers in 2019 – a new record for this route. For Little Cayman, there was also a new record in arrivals of visitors and residents, with 30,537 passengers – most arrivals ever.
The significant growth of visitation for all three islands maintained an upward trajectory over the past five years. In 2015 the destination welcomed 385,378 stayover visitors, and in 2019 there were 502,739 which equates to growth of 30.5 per cent or 117,361 guests. For the first time in Cayman’s history, three months in one calendar year peaked at over 50,000 stayover guests visiting our shores—March, July, and December 2019. Overall, except for September 2019, the country broke previous arrival records for 11 months out of 12.
Reflecting on the positive impact that this growth in stayover arrivals has created, the Honorable Minister of Tourism Moses Kirkconnell shared, “Since I began my duties as the Minister for Tourism, it has been my government’s intention that through tourism initiatives we would create positive impacts across all three islands that improve the lives of Caymanian families. We know that tourism provides many opportunities—from entrepreneurship to sharing of our culture—that empower our people to thrive professionally and personally. This has been our focus for the past five years and will continue to be a top priority for us going forward.”
Acknowledging the work of the Department of Tourism, Cayman Airways and the many tourism stakeholders, the Hon Minister said, “A few years ago, my government and I challenged the Department of Tourism and our stakeholders to reach new markets and create growth opportunities for our tourism sector. The numbers speak for themselves—over 502,000 people chose our home—a humble three island trio with so much to offer—to make their dreams a reality by coming to the Cayman Islands. The Department of Tourism rose to that challenge through a variety of tactical and creative means, and we all should be proud of this amazing outcome.”
One particular area of growth was in the homeshare segment of new licensed tourism accommodation properties. “It is a great sense of accomplishment that the Department of Tourism is able to help the general public understand that tourism involves everyone. We remain committed to embracing travel trends early and ensuring that the Cayman Islands stay ahead of the curve when it comes to giving our visitors the idyllic dream sun, sand and sea vacation,” commented Mrs. Rosa Harris, Director, Cayman Islands Department of Tourism.
Homesharing, however, was just one aspect of the formula for success in 2019. “Our stakeholders understand a mantra that I use frequently when discussing what makes us successful: ‘Airlift is our oxygen’,” stated Mrs. Harris. “My team and I invest significant effort to maintain and grow strong aviation partnerships to ensure that airline capacity and flight frequency throughout the year are maintained and increased wherever possible. This ever-increasing ease in accessibility for our visitors, paired with the exceptional Caymankind service and experience unique to our country, enable us to grow the business and set visitation records.” Airlift from key visitor source markets for the destination showed significant expansion in 2019, whether through increased service or new airlines flying into the country.
Notable airline announcements in 2019 paved the way for a successful year and set the stage of increased accessibility for visitors in 2020. These include:
– National flag carrier Cayman Airways returned to Denver in December 2019 through August 2020 with twice weekly service.
– American Airlines announced the additional seasonal service from Boston and new service from JFK in 2020.
– Sunwing announced the launch of service into the Cayman Islands from Toronto, Canada for February 2020.
– British Airways introduced an extra flight on Tuesdays.
– United Airlines transitioning their Newark route to daily service from December 2019 through April 2020.
– Southwest added Baltimore seasonally, which launched in June 2019, increasing frequency in 2020
– Southwest moving their Houston service to start in March instead of late spring in 2020 and will progress to daily as of June 2020.
– WestJet and AirCanada increased frequency for 2020.
Echoing the Director’s airlift mantra, the Hon. Deputy Premier further commented, “Each year my team and I in the Ministry and Department of Tourism work tirelessly to ensure that we facilitate annual growth in visitation through a number of means. While the benefit of strategic approach is that we get to share our beautiful homeland with visitors from around the globe, we must continue to recognize that tourism is a powerful business and economic driver. We are responsible to the people of the Cayman Islands to ensure that we are laser focused in creating areas of economic development through the diverse field of travel and tourism. This is not done haphazardly; research, innovation and a mindset to create strategy based on fearless creativity all played a role in this success. Add to this is our longstanding commitment to infusing a tourism focused curriculum in our schools from a young age to training future generations who can and will benefit from this career field in the years to come.”
Confident that the combination of tactics will continue to lead the Cayman Islands on to further successful growth in economic impact, the Department of Tourism is already in full swing with an active 2020 plan, whose foundation is based on the National Tourism Plan. “Through all of what we do in our dynamic industry to ensure the future success of tourism, we must always be planning for the future,” commented Mrs. Harris. “As a government department with the goal of responsibly leading the tourism industry to new heights, we will continue to focus on source market diversification, new partnerships, and innovative destination marketing plans to continue to drive the record-breaking successes for the Cayman Islands in the new decade ahead.