Hon. Minister for Tourism Kenneth Bryan is maintaining an optimistic outlook for the next key period in Cayman’s tourism recovery; the upcoming 2022/2023 peak winter season.
With recent statistics showing a gradual and steady return, efforts are now focused on promoting the jurisdiction especially in the main tourism source markets, particularly the United States.
Giving an update on the Caymanian Times programme Cayman Conversations, Mr Bryan said indications point to Cayman’s continuing popularity as a preferred destination for both cruise and stay-over visitors sectors as the jurisdiction continues to gradually emerge from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In respect of the first three months, we did 61,000 people within just six weeks, which was our test run. And that worked out to be under 50% of the normal amount,” he said about the return of cruise ship calls to date.
A similar trend is being observed for the airline industry and stay-over tourism, Mr Bryan added, factoring in issues such as current challenges with travel from some key markets due to staff shortages in the airline industry.
“For January we did 14% compared to 2018 and February we did 27% which was 12,271 persons. In March we did 38%. So we need to double and double and double. So far in April we went up again not a doubling this time, but about another 15% from the previous month of March. So in April, the final numbers are equating to about 55% of the 2018 numbers which is showing gradual growth. And I’m happy about that,” the tourism minister declared.
With the tourism industry now into its traditional low season, emphasis is being placed on preparations for the crucial upcoming peak winter season. And according to Mr Bryan, the outlook is encouraging.
“Our projections are that we are expected to hit about a 70% mark by the end of this year. So the key focus for the Ministry now is to ensure that for the start of the new high season that we are fully prepared in every aspect, whether it’s in employment, getting businesses back up and running to make sure that they’re ready for for the influx of visitor numbers.
“We believe that this high season is obviously hoping to be a lot better than the last high season because it was so close to the scare of COVID in travel periods. So now that scare is gone, we expect a lot more people, so we want to make sure that the country is ready.”
One issue that Tourism Minister Bryan said he is closely looking at is balancing how best to further relax some of the remaining COVID-19 restrictions alongside attracting more visitors using the successful 2018/2019 peak tourism period as a benchmark.
“It’s a constant monitoring of the global situation and the regional situation, as well as the local situation before we can make decisions. But I, certainly as Minister of Tourism, am working really hard on my colleagues to say I need these restrictions removed by the high season in order for us to have a full, proper year and get tourism back to where it should be.”
A notable development in Cayman’s tourism profile came out of the recent Sea Trade tourism convention in Florida.
Mr Bryan disclosed that Cayman has secured a special status as one of just three countries selected for an exclusive marketing program with the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association(FCCA).
“We had the opportunity to come to an agreement (with the FCCA) whereby we will be one of three countries that will have exclusive opportunities to market to the industry and to all the key level executives and cruise lines to work together about Kamen. The important factor about that is that we will be at the top of exposing Caymans cruise tourism,” Tourism Minister Bryan explained.
(The full interview with Hon. Minister of Tourism Kenneth Bryan will also be featured in the new Caymanian Times Saturday morning radio programme on BOBO 89.1fm which launches on Saturday June 11th).