The Cayman Islands grew its tourism impact by more than 5 percent in 2015 and welcomed 385,379 visitors in air arrivals alone. // © 2016 Divetech/Jay Easterbrook
Feature image (above): Adventure lovers should plan a visit to Cayman Brac, named for its 140-foot bluff. // 2016 © Cayman Brac Bluff/Will Burrard-Lucas
It seems the Caribbean is currently riding a tourism wave. According to the Caribbean Tourism Organization, the destination outperformed every major tourism region in the world in setting new arrival and spend records in 2015.
The Cayman Islands was a vital part of this success. Tourism visitor impact there grew by 5.51 percent in 2015, and the islands welcomed 385,379 total air arrivals. Cruise arrivals for the year totaled 1,716,812 passengers, a year-over-year increase of 6.66 percent. The air arrival numbers mark the highest the Cayman Islands has ever recorded, while the cruise arrival figure marks the best year the destination has had since 2007.
“The continued success of our tourism sector means that more Caymanians are able to positively impact our visitors’ experiences while maintaining a livelihood in what is an exciting and dynamic industry,” said Moses Kirkconnell, deputy premier and minister for tourism. “We know that it is the Caymanian people who make our destination so special and create those lasting memories for our valued visitors.”
The Cayman Islands has embarked on a number of projects that will enhance the visitor experience. Chief among them is the kickoff of the long-awaited expansion project at Owen Roberts International Airport. The project, which began in March 2015, is being implemented in four phases and will take three years to complete. The first area of construction is the departure terminal. Upon completion of all four phases, the project will significantly increase the capacity of the airport.
“The improvements at the airport, along with other infrastructure projects currently in progress, will make our tourism marketplace even more appealing for our visitors,” said Stran Bodden, chief officer in the ministry of district administration, tourism and transport.
The destination is also seeing an impressive slate of hotel builds and renovation projects. These are on track to add new room stock and to welcome new brands to the islands.
The sale of Treasure Island Resort was followed by an announcement that the property will be reborn as a Margaritaville resort. Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa has continued its scheduled construction and remains on track to meet its anticipated completion date for fall 2016. The Grand Cayman resort will add 266 rooms, along with an additional 62 residential suites. A new 200-room luxury resort has also been announced: St. James Point, to be built in Bodden Town, on Grand Cayman. Plans also continue to build a five-star Dart hotel along the Seven Mile Beach corridor.
Medical tourism is a growing market, and the infrastructure and high standards associated with the Caymans positions the destination to become an important player. To that end, Health City Cayman Islands, a tertiary-care hospital offering affordable healthcare services, is continuing with its plans to create an on-site hotel that will encourage destination healthcare around the islands.
Renovations began last fall for Brac Reef Resort. The newly designed property recently celebrated its official relaunch under a new name, Cayman Brac Beach Resort.
Luxury boutique Le Soleil d’Or, on the island of Cayman Brac, continues to welcome guests while moving forward with its expansion, which includes a gym and an oceanside spa and cabana.
“The continued interest by developers to invest in the Cayman Islands is a good indication that we are a country destined to grow,” said Rosa Harris, director of the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism. “Our successful partnerships with the private sector, along with the ongoing strategic marketing efforts of the department, will help us to move along the steady path for increased visitation in the years to come. This is an exciting time for the Cayman Islands.”