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Local News 31 Jul, 2023 1 Comments Follow News

Roy McTaggart

By Staff Writer

The opposition People’s Progressive Movement (PPM) has challenged assertions by Hon. Minister for Tourism and Ports Kenneth Bryan, over the extent of Cayman’s post-pandemic tourism’s tourism industry recovery to date.

In a press release, PPM and Opposition Leader Roy McTaggart said Mr Bryan “does not seem to understand what is happening in Cayman’s tourism industry. He underestimates the difficulties and challenges that the sector faces and ignores the hardship being caused for those who work in tourism.”

He referred to the announcement by Mr Bryan that ‘revenue collected from Tourism Accommodation Taxes and Fees in the first six months of this year has already exceeded revenue projections for the full 12 months of 2023.’

As good as that headline may sound, Mr McTaggart said, the real lesson from the half-year figures announced by the Minister is that stay-over tourism is down 16 per cent compared with 2019.

“In his press release, Hon. Kenneth Bryan stated that stayover arrivals between January and June 2023 stood at 235,370 visitors, equating to 84 percent of visitor arrivals during the corresponding period in 2019. That fall of 16% equates to around 45,000 fewer visitors to our shores than in 2019,” the PPM leader stated.

In his analysis, Mr McTaggart concluded that in 2019 the stay-over visitor daily spend was about *$1,814. “Allowing for 10 per cent inflation since 2019 gives 2023 a likely daily spend per head figure of $2,000.

“A loss of 45,000 visitors then amounts to a staggering $90m fewer tourism dollars spent in the Cayman Islands economy in the first half of 2023 compared with the 2019 half-year. This is $90m lost to local tourism businesses, and wages lost to Caymanians working in the tourism industry.”

Mr Taggart, who was finance minister in the previous PPM-led government before taking over the leadership of the party, added that when those losses are coupled with the damaging effect of the decline in cruise visitors, the impact on Caymanians with tourism businesses and Caymanians working in the industry is significant. “And while Caymanians in the real economy are suffering, the Minister is boasting about government revenues.”

He also posited that the reason why government revenues are up is not due to the Minister’s efforts. Instead, it is a consequence of inflation, Mr McTaggart argued.

“The Minister’s press release claimed that ‘this impressive growth can be attributed partly to the successful marketing strategies implemented by the Ministry.’  But the reality is that visitor numbers are down from where they should be. What has gone up is the cost of hotel rooms.”

According to the PPM leader, with fewer tourists arriving, the Government’s increased tourism accommodation revenues are actually due to hotel rooms costing about 20% more than in 2019.  

He pointed to data from Tourism Analytics for 2023 showing that Jamaica, Anguilla, Grenada, Aruba, Cancun, Dominican Republic, The USVI, and San Juan all exceeded their year-to-date 2019 tourist air arrivals.

“The Cayman Islands languishes in 16th place out of 18 in the league table of performance this year compared to 2019. Only Trinidad and Cuba are doing worse than Cayman.”

Noting that anyone can set a low target and then celebrate its achievement, the Opposition Leader pointed to remarks by former PPM tourism minister Moses Kirkconnell, who recently advised in Parliament that the Tourism Ministry should raise its tourism projections.

“We must be more ambitious for our tourism product. With stay-over tourism numbers below their potential and our cruise business falling, we must get away from the current pattern of unconnected initiatives and ill-thought-through policies. We need a proper cohesive strategy that charts a path back to prosperity for our entire tourism sector.”

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Rhonda K Chesnutt

02 Aug, 2023

We had been to Grand Cayman five times before the pandemic and were especially happy when Cayman Airlines began running its direct flights from Denver twice a week. It is now 2023 and Cayman Airlines only flies on Saturdays from the DIA airport in Denver Co. We have been trying to book a trip to get back to Cayman since your restrictions have lifted but all flights have been sold out and there are no alternatives. We have checked all flights this year to Grand Cayman until Cayman Airlines stops this flight route for the winter months. One of the reasons your tourism may be down is the airlines are not up and back to where they were pre-pandemic. So many trips we had plans that we did not get to make because flying to Grand Cayman includes an 8 hour layover or more in Miami or Atlanta. Please work with your airlines to increase the number of flights from their US locations so that we can actually visit your beautiful islands. I cannot wait to swim with the stingrays again in the future.