Cayman Islands Expanding Tourist Infrastructure Amid Growing Visitor Arrivals
PHOTO: Rosa Harris, Cayman Islands Department of Tourism director. (Photo by Brian Major).
Cayman Islands tourism officials are celebrating a successful 2015 season, highlighted by record airline visitor arrivals and the best cruise performance in nearly a decade, as the southern Caribbean nation is embarking on multi-million dollar projects to expand its visitor infrastructure.
The Cayman Islands recorded 385,379 air arrivals in 2015, a modest 0.67 percent increase over 2014, yet still the country’s best-ever air arrivals performance according to Cayman Islands Department of Tourism (CIDOT) officials.
Cruise ship arrivals, long a strong sector for the Cayman Islands, increased 6.6 percent to 1,716,812 passengers in 2015, the highest total since 2007. The Cayman Islands is one of only seven Caribbean nations to host one million or more cruise ship visitors in 2015, and the only of the group without a modern cruise ship pier and port facility.
The positive 2015 visitor totals come as the Cayman Islands government is launching several travel and tourism infrastructure projects. In October Premier Alden McLaughlin announced the government’s intention to proceed with a $150 million cruise ship pier and passenger terminal.
The plan calls for the construction of a pier and terminal development in the harbor of George Town, the country’s capital. The government will also re-develop the George Town waterfront, already a popular tourist gathering spot, as part of the plan.
The Cayman Islands began work on an expansion of Owen Roberts International Airport (ORIA) in March 2015. The four-phased project, expected to be completed in 2018, will significantly expand ORIA’s capacity and ease congestion at the current, outdated facility.
“The improvements at the airport, along with other infrastructure projects currently in progress, will make our tourism marketplace even more appealing for our visitors,” said Stran Bodden, chief officer at the Cayman Islands Ministry of Tourism. Bodden added that “product enhancements, including numerous hotel developments” would “continue to come on line.”
New Cayman Islands resort properties opening this year include the former Brac Reef Resort, scheduled to re-launch Jan. 15 as the Cayman Brac Beach Resort following a fall renovation. The 266-room Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa is also slated to open this fall. Last year’s sale of the former Treasure Island Resort to Howard Hospitality Group will result in a new 280-room Margaritaville Beach Resort hotel, scheduled to debut in December.
Plans are also underway for a luxury Dart hotel in the Seven Mile Beach district and St. James Point, a 200-room luxury resort planned for the Bodden Town neighborhood.
“The continued interest by developers to invest in the Cayman Islands is a good indication that we are a country destined to grow,” said Rosa Harris, CIDOT’s director.
CIDOT officials are also supporting Public Transportation Board initiatives to improve intra-island transportation, address road congestion and expand airport taxi service for visitors. The Tourism Ministry and CIDOT have partnered to develop programs designed to train local residents for tourism careers, including a hospitality school, tourism scholarships and tourism curriculum in primary schools.
“The continued success of our tourism sector means more Caymanians are able to positively impact our visitors’ experiences while maintaining a livelihood in what is an exciting and dynamic industry,” said Moses Kirkconnell, deputy premier and tourism minister.
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