Last updated: 05:00 AM ET, Fri November 13 2015

Weak Third Quarter Numbers Slow Cayman Islands' Arrivals Surge

Destination & Tourism | Brian Major | November 13, 2015

Weak Third Quarter Numbers Slow Cayman Islands' Arrivals Surge

PHOTO: Moses Kirkconnell, the Cayman Islands’ tourism minister. (Photo courtesy of Cayman Islands Department of Tourism)

The Cayman Islands' weak third-quarter tourist arrivals may be evidence that all good things come to an end.

The country’s Department of Tourism last week reported the Cayman Islands hosted 295,469 overnight visitors over the first nine months of 2015, a scant 0.6 percent increase over the same period last year.

The numbers are a blow to tourism officials who had earlier forecast a 5 percent increase in arrivals for 2015 after a double-digit overnight arrivals increase in 2014. Last year’s figure was the largest annual visitor total for the destination since 2000.

This year’s growth has been weak, however. The third-quarter totals released this week are down from the country’s first-half 2015 arrivals, themselves a comparatively slim 1.4 percent increase over 2014.

In a Cayman Compass article, Moses Kirkconnell, the Cayman Islands tourism minister, blamed the poor third quarter in part on the cancellation of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) under-15 soccer tournament, which had been scheduled to bring 36 teams to the island in August. The event would have bought an additional 4,000 visitors to the Cayman Islands, Kirkconnell said.

Indeed, Cayman Islands tourism has been impacted this year by the FIFA corruption scandal. CONCACAF is FIFA’s regional governing body; the cancellation came just over two months after reports of the bribery scandal emerged. A prominent Cayman Islands businessman, Jeffrey Webb, was among 14 FIFA officials arrested on corruption charges this summer.

The Cayman Islands’ tourist arrivals growth on land and sea (the 1,609,555 cruise ship arrivals the country recorded last year were its most since 2007) has provided the ideal rationale for the government’s current expansion and renovation of Owen Roberts International Airport (ORIA) and its controversial plan to build a new $150 million cruise ship facility.

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