Tourism stats spiral down

| 01/05/2009

(CNS): According to the arrival statistics for March, visitors to Cayman continue to decline.  Air arrivals for the first quarter 2009 were down 14% over the same period in 2008 and cruise arrivals were down 15.9% for the same period.  In a statement issued on Friday afternoon, Charles Clifford, the Minister for Tourism, said aside from the global recession, the diminished room stock was to blame. He said reports that have quoted Cayman as being the fifth worst hit destination in the Caribbean were based on reports covering only 12 out of 34 countries, and while Jamaica, Cuba and Cancun, Mexico were enjoying a modest increase in arrivals it was because they were selling cheap.

Clifford said those destinaitons offered an all-inclusive product, which he said was attractive to today’s budget conscious travelers from the US, Canada, and Europe, but Cayman remained an attractive choice. "Up until fourth quarter 2008, Cayman showed record air arrivals, demonstrating that this period of uncertainty is not characteristic of our attractiveness as a tourist destination,” the Minister added, saying the Department of Tourism was working in partnership with the private sector to address the downturn. Another reason for the reverse in numbers is the diminished room stock. The tourism industry in Cayman Brac was shut down for six months and one of our major hotels here closed because of hurricane damage from Hurricane Paloma.” He did not say, however, how that related to the almost 16% decline in cruise arrivals. Moreover, the idea that the Courtyard Marriot has been closed for six months owing to damage from Paloma has been brought into considerable question.

The minister also noted that the swine flu issue could also negatively affect visitor numbers, adding another challenge eroding consumer confidence. This happened previously with SARS and impact was felt worldwide,” he said.

He said, however, that the latest Survey of Affluence & Wealth in America produced by American Express Publishing and Harrison Group said vacation spending is poised to be one of the first categories to rebound after the global economic crisis and the Cayman Islands is one of the top five Caribbean destinations visited amongst this target demographic, and in the top 19 destinations worldwide.

He said that promotions were gaining a significant role in the current economic environment, as the affluent consumer is still looking for quality, but wants better deals. “Private sector partner promotions such as the Westin Summer Spectacular, where rooms are priced starting at $159, will help to see us through this difficult period,” he added.

He said Cayman had some compelling summer offers including Cayman Summer Splash, Kids Fly Free and Skate Cayman.We are confident that the promotions and programmes in place will see us through this difficult period,” he added.

Trina Christian, Executive Director of CITA said she had met with representatives from the various Tourism Associations from over 20 different Caribbean destinations and those who reported an increase in arrivals also experiencing a significant decrease in revenues. The average daily room rate is down and the visitor spend once there has decreased, she said. “Customers are demanding extremely low rates and some destinations have chosen to ‘give away’ vacations in order to keep traffic flowing. This can be extremely damaging to a destination and the Cayman Islands is cautious not to over discount.

She said CITA is focusing all efforts on informing members of the opportunities that are out there for them to maximize their business. “One of the latest initiatives is the Staycation promotion that is being launched in May with the support of the Ministry of Tourism. The tactic is designed to maximize the on-island spend during these slower times and to offer an affordable vacation solution for local residents who deserve a vacation but may not want to leave the country.

Clifford said 2009 is not business as usual but the Ministry and Department of Tourism and the private sector’s strategy is to seekto preserve the integrity of our brand while dealing with the immediacy of the situation.

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Comments (13)

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  1. Batholomew Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapik says:

    Maybe Chuckie can sell tickets for a photographic walking tour of Mount Trashmore – that’s getting a lot of play now-a-days.

    Seriously though: the clock is running out.  Cayman needs a professionally run ‘national’ tourism strategy, not a hit-and-miss crap-shoot run by the elected but untrained.  Move fast, and get ready for Cuba who’s going to change the tourism landscape of the Caribbaen when they come on-line.

    Either that or make a national strategy based on a different economic base, preferably different from the offshore finance sector.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The Emperor has no clothes.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The tourism policy has been a contradiction for years.

    Cayman likes to see itself as a high end destination with high prices and pretending to offer the high end experience yet at the same time flooding the country with 10,000s of the lowest end tourists which are cruise ship tourists which decrease the quality of life for everyone on the island.

    Say you are staying at the Ritz and want to go downtown and there are 3 or 4 cruise ships in. Will your downtown shopping experience be enjoyable?

    There is only 1 decent full sized golf course and that is perhaps closing with Mr. Ryan’s development plans. How can Cayman attempt to position itself as a high end destination without world class golf courses to attract visiting tourists?

    Many condo owners who visit for months at a time in the winter are very concerned about the future of golf on Grand Cayman. The DoT seem oblivious to the importance of decent golf courses to the high end tourist product. These people are here for months buying goods and services in the country and supporting local restaurants.

    When will the DoT wake up to this reality?

  4. Straight Talk says:

    Hey Dudes….tourism is down accross the globe….those countries that are showing slight increases in arrival numbers like Jamaica and Cancun are also showing very steep declines in revenue because they have discounted their offers so deeply that it doesnt make sense. I think Cayman’s approach is the best approach…..moderate discounts because we have a much different product and stable revenues as a result.

    • Anonymous says:

      Chuckie is a Joke!

      This ex-policeman, wanna be lawyer turned politicians is going to ruin the Cayman Islands tourism.

  5. Anonymous says:

    There are NO 5 star hotels in Cayman.  Don’t kid yourselves.

    • Anonymous says:

      How (sadly) true.  The WBR establishments are sad imitations of hotels.  Miles of endless boring corridor, bad expensive food and no proper room service.  Absolute pants.

      I would never ever recommend anyone who didn’t have another reason to come here (business or seeing family) to visit Cayman for pleasure, unless they were serious divers, in which case they should stay in the East, or go on the Aggressor. 

  6. Caymanluvr says:

     

    I sent this letter to the CaymanNetNews last week:

    With reports in the media last week lamenting an 11 percent slow down in arrivals to Cayman this year over last year and your close neighbours (Jamaica, Cuba and Mexico) enjoying increases in their arrivals, I ask you to consider customer service training for your airport associates as soon as possible and a Business 101 study to learn how to implement new fees.

    We fly to Grand Cayman many times a year. Each year, the service at the airline departure check-in gets noticeably worse. The poor and lackadaisical attitudes of many airline representatives are some of the worst in the world.

    Due to Cayman being one of the most expensive destinations in the Caribbean in which to fly, we book our flights in advance to take advantage of the savings.

    When departing your expensive, albeit safe and modern, island last week we were demanded to pay a departure tax. Having no prior or “at the moment” knowledge of this tax, (no signs or pamphlets warned us when we arrived or were posted at the departure check-in) and having not had to pay the tax in the past we asked for more information to which the airline representative could not tell us anything except to rudely tell us that we had to pay it or we would not be getting on an airplane that day. When we asked to speak to a Supervisor she told us there was not one on duty and walked away. After several minutes she returnedto tell us that because we had booked our trip prior to February that we had to pay this Departure Tax.

    We refused and magically a caring and wonderfully customer service oriented Supervisor appeared who understood the situation and graciously waived the fee.

    I plead with the Department of Tourism to “grandfather in” such fees so as not to look like the money-grabbing vultures they appeared to be at the airport last week. This was highly unprofessional, not to mention embarrassing. Furthermore, a very poor taste has been left in our mouths, again, while leaving your island.

    In today’s economy, Cayman should be grateful for every tourist dollar that is spent on island and, again, I reiterate that customer service training should be implemented with the airport employees and, actually, right across the service industry on the island.

  7. Resort of last resort? says:

    Unless you are a committed diver Cayman does not offer much for tourism.  It is unattractive geographically compared to the rest of the region, it has no culture and it is too expensive.  Unless we move into large developments, probably in the East End, Cayman’s spiral will carry on since it started when SMB became overdeveloped.  And soon there won’t even be decent accessible golf which will reduce stay over visitors even further.

    • Anonymous says:

      Resort of last resort,

      if that is true now, it has always been true.

      Blame Mr. Bush for the overdevelopment of SMB

      • Anonymous says:

        Thank  God  and Mr. Bush for that section of West Bay road, which includes the Ritz of which the PPM can not get enough.  I for one, and glad of the development of the West Bay road corridor which boasts of such ostentacious five star hotels such as the Westin and many more. 

        One can not expect to compete with high class tourism destinations and not provide luxury accomodations or not develop the island. They both go hand in hand and we can’t chose one without the other. There will always be someone who wants us to remain  the islands which time forgot. Well, I am not one of them.

         

        • Anonymous says:

          Is Chuckie wearing one of those ties that McKeeva gave his team for their photo shoot? I guess Mac may be looking for a new permanent secretary for his next ministry and wants Chuckie back.

          Go Chuckie go. You have to eat too and feed your family.

  8. Anonymous says:

    In terms of affordable on island spending during slow times – I would like to see these  hotel specials regularly advertised in our local newspapers or perhaps via the Chambers and its membership. 

    For the most part, in order to find out about any local specials and compare you now have to call each and every hotel on the island to inquire.  In fact  I did that recently, as well as a number of other times in the past and found that the room rates were not affordable at all even though they were supposedly "locally priced".  One can easily see why Cayman would be considered  one of the most expensive tourist destinations in the world.

     By  the hotels advertising, residents, who might not have given any consideration to spending time home would be more tempted  and perhaps persuaded to spend their vacation right here on the island.  All I’m saying is: let’s have the hotels do a better job in letting us know what discounts are on offer and  of  making those rooms more affordable.