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BRYAN - A 10-YEAR VISION FOR TOURISM

Tourism 14 Feb, 2024 Follow News

BRYAN - A 10-YEAR VISION FOR TOURISM

In a landmark address to the annual Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce Economic Forum this week, Hon. Minister for Tourism and Ports, Kenneth Bryan defined his vision for the local tourism industry for the next next ten years.

From Mr Bryan’s perspective, the outlook for the next decade places heavy emphasis on creating more opportunities in the industry for Caymanians, resolving bottlenecks for cruise and cargo operations, recognising the importance of both cruise and land-based tourism, and reducing congestion. largely caused by the heavy concentration of tourism activity in and around the capital, George Town.

Importantly, Mr Bryan said that underpinning his ten-year projection for tourism growth in Cayman; is sustainability both from an environmental and economic standpoint.

“For tourism to truly function as a catalyst for economic activity and growth, we must develop clear targets for our tourism industry and take a scientific approach to economic benefit and projections. We need to align our revenue goals with the necessary infrastructure investments to support them effectively,” he told the business gathering.

“We must also continue to empower our local entrepreneurs and enable them to participate in the tourism industry, not only as employees but also as owners of businesses,” he stressed.

TOURISM REBOUNDING

The Tourism and Ports Minister who is also the chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation(CTO) was speaking on the theme, Creating a Sustainable Economy Through an Integrated Tourism Vision. He said the way forward for Cayman’s tourism industry is already being charted as evidenced by the successful rebound - especially in land-based tourism - from the COVID-19 pandemic and comparisons to the pre-Covid 2019 season.

“I am happy to report that our efforts to reinstate stay-over visitation are proving successful. Between January and December 2023, we welcomed 429,284 stay-over visitors – an impressive 85% of 2019’s record-breaking numbers. This signals a strong rebound and sets a positive tone for our business community. In 2023 we expected to collect $25M and I am super excited to say that we did significantly better than that.”

Min. Bryan emphasised that “2023 was the highest year on record for revenue collection from tourism accommodation taxes” while pointing out that returning to 2019 numbers is “a benchmark, not the ceiling.”

He admitted that cruise tourism has been slower on the rebound due to a range of factors, including changes within the global cruise industry which would require some adaptations by Cayman.

“Cruise passenger arrivals over the period January to December 2023 were at 1.2 Million, which equates to 30% or 560,000 fewer passengers compared to 2019. The cruise industry is continuing to evolve, moving towards larger and larger ships. To stay relevant as a cruise destination and protect the market that we have, which contributes up to $200 Million to our economy, we must adapt and be willing to rethink the possibilities,” he cautioned.

CONGESTION CONCERNS

A related factor is that of easing congestion, especially within the capital, and improving traffic access to other areas - with benefits for expanding tourism and decentralising government services outside George Town.

For Mr Bryan resolving that forms a focal point of his ten-year outlook.

“The problem wasn’t that we had too many tourists in 2019, the problem was that we didn’t manage them correctly. What we needed was more effective solutions to manage pedestrian, vehicle and cruise passenger flows.”

Updating the Chamber of Commerce Economic Forum that “work is ongoing to address all of these issues”, Mr Bryan included the port expansion and potential relocation in the plans.

”We are also in the process of determining whether it is sustainable for the Cargo Port to remain downtown in the heart of the business district…If the Cargo Port moved to another location, the space available to manage cruise operations would virtually double overnight. This would help with the management of the embarkation/disembarkation process.”

TOURISM DIVERSIFICATION

Speaking of “diversifying our tourism product” he listed introducing more tours, activities and attractions dispersed across the Island with a well-connected road system. “This is another reason why you have seen me and others in this administration lobby for the extension of the East-West Arterial.”

Mr Bryan pointed out that a key benefit would be that businesses “could more easily and effectively set up outside of Town and it would support the decentralization of the government services, retail and housing – “all with the added benefit of alleviating traffic, which contributes to a better quality of life.”

Further detailing his ten-year tourism development policy outline, Mr Bryan listed the new initiative of a Visitor Experience Development Grant (VEDG) mainly for micro, small and medium-sized tourism enterprises. CI$500,000 annually has been allocated in the 2024/25 budget to provide start-up capital to Caymanian entrepreneurs and artisans to help them create new tourism experiences.

“The objective is to have Mom and Pop shops set up all across the island, especially in the Eastern and Western districts, offering a range of things for visitors to do, which highlight Caymanian foods, crafts, tours, and attractions,” he stated.

Other initiatives include the development of a tourism convention centre, interconnected walking pathways and bike paths, linking purpose-built accommodations with Caymanian-owned restaurants and water-sports activities, ongoing Caymanian cultural performances, and beautification projects.

He also highlighted goals of “a more efficient transport system that can be used by all, reducing the number of vehicles on our roads and improving our overall quality of life…strong educational training opportunities for our people; such as, through the Hospitality School, and the Ministry of Tourism Scholarship Programme…focusing on keeping crime low, to maintain our standing as a safe jurisdiction; and continuing to provide the police with the support that they need.”

Summarising his vision for Cayman’s tourism industry, Min. Bryan declared:

“All of this sounds almost too good to be true. But I believe every one of those aspirations is achievable.”


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