By Ron Shillingford, London UK
The Cayman Islands continues to be one of the most attractive places in the Caribbean, with the latest tourism figures endorsing that.
Whether it’s on Seven Mile Beach, in the hotels, in the streets of George Town, by day and by night, the magic of Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands is magnetic. Considering it is only 14 years since the devastation of Hurricane Ivan, Cayman has bounced back incredibly well.
It’s because the Cayman Islands is one of the most dynamic destinations in the Caribbean with a tourism product that’s as fresh, sophisticated and diverse as anywhere in the region.
There are so many reasons for this. Being a Caribbean culinary capital is one. There’s quality and quantity in every genre, from Seven Mile Beach’s breath-taking Blue by Eric Ripert to Cayman Kai’s funky, splendid Kaibo to the taste bud-tingling delights at Rankin’s Jerk Pit in Bodden Town. It simply overflows with great places to eat, with a general emphasis on ultra-fresh seafood and sophisticated but relaxed eateries like Grand Old House, Catch, Agua, Lobster Pot and Casanova’s. With the Cayman Cookout approaching next month, there will be another influx of foodies.
Camana Bay is another great reason to visit for its food, culture, sport and nightlife. Seven Mile Beach is one of the most famous stretches of sand globally. It’s intoxicatingly beautiful, with jaw-droppingly clear water, soft sand and miles of tropical splendour. Other fantastic beaches include Bodden Town’s, those in East End and North Side and the unspoilt stretches in Little Cayman and Cayman Brac.
Little Cayman and Cayman Brac have their own unique personalities and particular charms. Little Cayman is the place for the far-off island fantasy. And Cayman Brac is equally fascinating, from its bluffs to its seafood to its remarkable natural environment.
When it comes to culture, The National Gallery of the Cayman Islands impresses with its exhibits throughout the year, while no visit to Cayman is complete without a stop at Mission House, Bodden Town the centuries-old historic home on the site of one of the first settlements in the Cayman Islands.
For adventure there are walks, caves, numerous sports facilities, including golf and an array of water sports. Stingray City’s allure continues to pull in the crowds as well. Other crowd pleasers include the Kittiwake Shipwreck, Mastic Trail, Bloody Bay Marine Park in Little Cayman, Rum Point, Cayman Motor Museum and Pedro St James Castle.
All these enticements mean the Cayman Islands has seen 386,290 stayover visitors through the first three quarters of 2019, representing a 10.3 percent increase over the same period in 2018.
That number is among the fastest growth rates of any destination in the Caribbean, according to data from the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s most recent report.
Last month, in what is typically a slow month for the region, Cayman posted a 5.76 percent increase compared to October 2018. Overall, the growth has been led by a 10.5 percent increase from the all-important United States market, which sent Cayman 325,696 visitors.
“It is reaffirming to hear first-hand the positive impact our stayover strategy is having on stimulating tourism businesses’ profit margin during what we consider traditional shoulder season,” said Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell.
“The Ministry has been steadfast in its commitment to our sector and the community at large to create more opportunities for entrepreneurship, training and development for those interested in tourism related endeavours, endeavours that largely rely on air arrivals to maintain a successful business model.”
The visitors are spending heavily too. Stayover visitors have spent more than $560.9 million so far this year, an 11.3 percent or $57.1m increase over the first nine months of 2018.
The numbers come as the Cayman Islands recently announced that it had topped the vital 7,000 total accommodation units, a significant milestone.
The tourism improvement has been buoyed by several factors, from a continued, robust marketing push to a rapid expansion in airlift in recent years.
The official opening of the Owen Roberts International Airport terminal during a visit to the island by Prince Charles was another milestone.
And the improvements have not gone unnoticed by investors. Indeed, Cayman has become a leading destination for luxury hotel brands.
That means new hotels on the way ranging from a Curio Collection by Hilton on the edge of George Town to the highly-anticipated Mandarin Oriental project to a new Grand Hyatt-branded residential resort on the island’s world-famous Seven Mile Beach.
“It is reaffirming to hear first-hand the positive impact our stayover strategy is having on stimulating tourism businesses’ profit margin during what we consider traditional shoulder season,” said Minister Kirkconnell. “My government strongly supports the dedicated work of the Department of Tourism to increase visitation to, and awareness of, the Cayman Islands around the globe to ensure that we maximize opportunities that create positive impacts to our sector and the businesses with in this market.”