|Cayman Net News, Grand Cayman, Cayman
IslandsMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
May 5, 2009--Cayman Islands arrival statistics for March have just been released and continue to demonstrate that we are in the midst of a global economic recession. Air arrivals for the first quarter 2009 were down 14% over the same period in 2008. Cruise arrivals were down 15.9% for the same period.
Recent reports have quoted Cayman as being the fifth worst hit destination in the Caribbean however it is important to note that only 12 out of 34 countries were included in the report. Jamaica, Cuba and Cancun, Mexico were cited as enjoying a modest increase in arrivals.
These destinations have been aggressively pushing deeply-discounted offers and packages with many private sector members doing the same. Furthermore, these destinations offer an all-inclusive product which is attractive to today's budget conscious travelers from the US, Canada, and Europe.
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 Ministry and Department of Tourism are working in partnership with the private sector to address the downturn, as we did following 9-11 and Hurricane Ivan.
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. It means that the number of available rooms has been reduced from what it was a year ago. However, we are hopeful that an additional 100 rooms will come on line by summer and more by the end of the year.
The swine flu issue could, however, negatively affect visitor numbers even more. This is yet another challenge that can negatively impact travel demand by eroding consumer confidence. This happened previously with SARS and impact was felt worldwide.
The latest Survey of Affluence & Wealth in America produced by American Express Publishing and Harrison Group has tracked awareness; familiarity; visitation practices; behaviors; and interest in future visitation. The results show many trends, several of which are highlighted below.
-- Vacation spending is poised to be one of the first categories to rebound after the global economic crisis; the Cayman Islands is poised and ready for the rebound.
-- The Cayman Islands is one of the top five Caribbean destinations visited amongst this target demographic, and in the top 19 destinations worldwide top-of-mind for travel.
-- The Cayman Islands saw a healthy increase from 18 to 22% on unaided recall of warm weather destinations.
-- The spending gap is slowing and travel is amongst the projected future spend categories most likely to increase.
-- Condo stays are more prevalent. For this reason the Strategic Selling Unit is being developed to support accessibility in purchasing this product for consumers. As well as to encourage condos that were previously committed to long-term rentals to re-enter the short-term rental pool.
-- Promotions are 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.
-- Family getaway is the most prominent travel motivation; Cayman is prepared with compelling summer travel offers including Cayman Summer Splash, Kids Fly Free and Skate Cayman.
We are confident that the abovementioned promotions and programmes in place will see us through this difficult period. In addition, Cayman Airways has already announced and loaded into the system its winter flights to Chicago and Washington D.C.
Trina Christian, Executive Director of CITA commented that "After having just recently met with representatives from the various Tourism Associations from over 20 different Caribbean destinations, those who reported an increased arrivals and occupancy are also experiencing a significant decrease in revenues. This is true across the board -- not just in the travel industry. The average daily room rate is down and the visitor spend once there has decreased."
Ms. Christian added "Customers in this current economic climate 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.
There are certainly efforts being made as a destination (through CITA and DOT promotions) as well as by the specials put forward by individual businesses to stay competitive. When talking with member businesses, many are still hopeful and seem to be doing well compared to other jurisdictions. As representatives of the private sector, 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. More information about CITA's Staycation promotion will be forthcoming," continued Ms. Christian.
2009 is not business as usual, however, the Ministry and Department of Tourism and the private sector's strategy, is to seek to preserve the integrity of our brand while dealing with the immediacy of the situation. We are offering travelers added value without permanently eroding the pricing in Cayman, which allows for the high quality of infrastructure and standard of living that we all enjoy.
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Copyright (c) 2009, Cayman Net News, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
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