According to a Virtuoso survey which was published in the CNBC’s Personal Finance section last week, Grand Cayman is among the top 10 destinations that wealthy travellers are now booking for their holidays.
Other cities/ countries that made the list include Jamaica, Dubai (United Arab Emirates), St Martin, Tanzania, Los Angeles, Maui (Hawaii), Kenya; Cape Town (South Africa); and Puerto Vallarta (Mexico).
According to Virtuoso, the ranking was made by looking at airline sales data for the upcoming 2020 holiday season. “Temperate and tropical climes close to the mainland U.S. such as Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean are ‘pacing well,’ it found, as are farther-flung spots in Africa and the Middle East.” Virtuoso predicts that wealthy travellers will begin travelling during the year-end holiday season.
CNBC believes that the tourism industry will boom once shelter in place orders are removed, quoting that, “After sheltering in place for weeks and months, people who have been dreaming about travel are ready to grab their passport and go.”
Virtuoso is a global network of 1,100 travel agencies and more than 22,000 travel advisors that specialize in luxury and experiential travel.
Work on construction sites throughout the Cayman Islands has ground to a halt during the coronavirus crisis, but there is one spot where bulldozers, dump trucks and other heavy equipment are still in operation – Owen Roberts International Airport.
With almost no planes landing because of the border closure, this has turned out to be the ideal time to complete the airport upgrades, which are now being done at an accelerated pace.
Six ‘sub-projects’ are expected to be finished as part of the $30 million Airport Airfield Upgrade Project, officials said. These include the rehabilitation of the existing runway surface, a runway and apron extension, a new airfield perimeter road, a new taxiway for planes, the filling in of ponds in the airfield, and expanding the aircraft parking ramp.
The first set of upgrades began in November 2019 and construction crews had been working during nighttime hours, when no aircraft were landing or taking off. However, the airport has been closed since 22 March, meaning crews now have access to the airfield at all times of the day and night.
A crew of 40 men has been divided into two shifts, one to excavate and construct the various portions of the airfield by day, and a crew to do the paving by night.
Albert Anderson, CEO of the Cayman Islands Airports Authority, said in a statement Wednesday, “We are very pleased with the progress we have made in bringing big improvements to service, operations and safety standards at our airports and remain committed to enhancing the services and amenities we provide to our traveling public.”
He added, “Some aspects of the Airfield Upgrade Project works are moving ahead of schedule due to the increased availability of the airfield to perform the works.”
Construction crews are working day and night to complete the upgrade of the airport’s airfield. – Photo: Cayman Islands Airports Authority
The rehabilitation and strengthening of the existing runway will comprise an additional three layers of asphalt. The first and second layers have already been completed and the final layer is expected to be finished by mid-May.
The Airports Authority expects the runway extension and blast deflectors to be completed by June, and a new taxiway, which will run parallel to the current runway, is expected to be completed by mid-July.
The filling of the airfield ponds has already been completed on the west end of the runway, and the remaining two ponds are expected to be filled by mid-May. The perimeter road is scheduled for completion by the end of May.
The final completion date of the project still remains mid-September. However, work on the apron expansion is expected to halt temporarily because travel restrictions will prevent a UK-based specialist concrete team from entering Cayman until the islands’ borders reopen.
Premier Alden McLaughlin earlier this month stated that the airport would remain closed at least until the end of May, although he has also indicated that on a number of occasions that it is unlikely Owen Roberts will reopen until the end of the year.
“During these challenging times, we are more proud than ever of our dedicated teams working behind the scenes to provide our customers with professional, innovative airport services and facilities in a safe, efficient manner, and we look forward to being able to share in this airfield transformation with the community going forward as we all work together to bring normalcy back to our daily lives,” Anderson said in the statement.
With construction activity continuing unabated, several new projects that will extend the development boom into 2020 and beyond have either been floated, approved or already launched.
At the start of 2019, Dart suggested the idea of an “iconic tower”, a five-star skyscraper resort with residences that would become instantly recognisable all over the world.
When Premier Alden McLaughlin announced the proposal at the Cayman Economic Outlook conference in February, he stated that Dart would invest about $1.5 billion in the building and related infrastructure.
In June, Justin Howe, executive vice president of Real Estate Development and Operations for Decco, said Dart’s development company was in the process of turning the idea into a plan, by considering scale, location, mixed-use components, market demand, infrastructure, setbacks – the distance from a lot boundary to a development – and the legal requirements.
However, despite the promise of its economic contribution, the idea of an iconic tower was not universally welcomed. Chamber of Commerce President Chris Kirkconnell said the overwhelming consensus of the business group was that Cayman did not need to become a “high-rise jungle” and that the proposal was “neither needed nor wanted” by the wider community.
Much of the desire to build taller buildings stems from the scarcity and high cost of available land in the most desirable areas, particularly Seven Mile Beach.
Current planning regulations restrict building heights in Cayman to a maximum of 10 storeys.
The new economics were laid bare in January when owners at Lacovia, one of Seven Mile Beach’s oldest condominium developments, voted to demolish their homes and replace them with three new, 10-storey buildings.
Each of Lacovia’s 55 owners has been guaranteed an apartment in the new complex, which will feature a mix of multi-million dollar homes, including $20 million top-floor penthouse suites.
The developer, Bronte Development, expects to make sufficient money from the sale of the 33 remaining apartments in the 88-apartment complex to fund the construction costs, as well as its developer’s fee.
Bronte believes the partnership with the executive committee of the strata corporation, a first for Cayman, could be the formula for the future development of Seven Mile Beach.
With vacant beachfront land in short supply, developers could work with stratas to redevelop older properties rather than seeking to buy them out or break new ground at less optimal sites.
The trend towards high-rise buildings is also visible in the latest Seven Mile Beach hotel projects.
Construction has begun on both the 10-storey, 351-room Grand Hyatt Hotel and Residences located at Pageant Beach between The Wharf Restaurant and Poinsettia condos, as well as Kailani Grand Cayman. The latter is a seven-storey hotel, 80-room hotel located at the site of the old Treehouse Restaurant, opposite Kirk Market.
The first Curio Collection by Hilton property in Cayman is slated to open in late 2021.
Tall hotel buildings will not be confined to the Seven Mile Beach area, after plans for the Mandarin Oriental resort in the Beach Bay area of Bodden Town were approved in November.
Work on the two, nine-storey buildings of the Mandarin Oriental, which will comprise the resort and residences, is scheduled to begin next year, with a 2022 opening date set for the hotel.
Meanwhile, a totally different hotel concept is set for Barefoot Beach in East End, where NCB Group is planning to build 83 single-storey units as part of a low-impact eco resort over 10 acres of land off the Queen’s Highway. The developers are leasing the land from Dart for a maximum of 10 years.
To accommodate the tourism growth anticipated by the hotel developments, infrastructure investments are also taking shape.
In March, the redeveloped Owen Roberts International Airport was officially opened by Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla. The air terminal has undergone a massive redevelopment over the past three years to be able to handle 2.7 million passengers per year.
Not long after opening, the management of the airport said a further expansion with a new terminal would be needed in the next five to ten years, at a likely cost of $100 million.
Expansion is not only needed for the terminal building, but also the runway and taxiing
In October, a $30 million upgrade of the airfield was approved. The project aims to add 870 feet to the west end of the existing runway and construct an apron north of the end of the runway to enlarge the turn-around area for aircraft.
It would also allow for one plane to be waiting while another is taking off or landing, which cuts the average time between taking off and landing in half.
Tourist arrivals to the Caribbean increased by 9.7% during the first half of 2019 over the same period last year, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.
Speaking at a press conference for the World Travel Market trade show in London held last week, CTO chairman Dominic Fedee said this performance is over double the global average of 4.4%.
Between January and June this year tourist visits to the Caribbean increased by 1.5 million to 17.1 million compared to the same period in 2018. The growth was driven predominantly by the US market, which jumped by 20.2%, totalling a first-half record 8.9 million overnight international tourists. In addition, some 2.1 million Canadian tourists stayed in the region during the first half of this year, a 2.4% rise when compared to the same period in 2018.
However, the European market was flat, registering a marginal 0.4% increase to 2.9 million trips, with the UK market down by 1.7%, mainly due to significant declines in Cuba, which fell by 22%, and the Dominican Republic, which was down by 15.3%.
A range of factors supported the gains made so far this year, the CTO said, including increased air capacity between the region and major sources, expansions in the accommodation sector and the positive positioning of the destinations’ brands in the various source markets.
Cruise tourism to the region saw a new record of 16.7 million cruise visits during the period, after a jump of 1.3 million year on year. The present estimated cruise-tourism growth rate of 8.1% eclipsed that for similar periods in the last four years.
“The strong results recorded in the first half reflect the resilience of individual destinations and demonstrate their ability to skilfully navigate global political and economic concerns, including Brexit and the ongoing trade wars which threaten the stability of the global economy,” the organisation said.
Looking forward to the remainder of this year, based on current trends, and considering the various global issues, the CTO forecast an increase of between 5% and 7% in stayover arrivals and a 4% to 5% rise in cruise passenger visits.
Adrian White will be responsible for implementing the islands’ five-year global tourism plan, which aims to raise the destination’s profile and increase visits from the UK, Ireland and Europe.
He will also take the lead on marketing strategy as part of an expanded London-based team.
White brings more than 20 years’ international sales and marketing experience to the role. He joins from InterContinental Hotels where he was global brand partnerships director for five years.
He will be assisted by new sales executive Irene Orozco, who will be responsible for developing trade partnerships and raising awareness of Cayman Islands product among trade partners.
This includes promoting the offering across Cayman’s three islands – Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
Orozco has eight years’ travel and tourism industry experience, most recently as an account executive at Axis Travel Marketing.
She will oversee a series of training initiatives to increase awareness of the Cayman Islands and deliver key destination facts to help trade partners sell the destination. These include a new training programme, contact centre training, fam trips, regional roadshows and branch visits.
Rosa Harris, Cayman Islands’ director of tourism, said White and Orozco joined at an exciting time for the Cayman Islands as it rolled out its global tourism strategy, adding the pair would play key roles increasing visits though “strong trade partnerships”.
“Demand remains strong for the Cayman Islands’ unique offering of exceptional barefoot luxury beach holidays, attentive service and an expansive choice of activities,” said Harris. “First-rate dive locations, a diverse international culinary scene and thrilling sports, as well as spectacular wildlife, make it an attractive destination for British visitors.”
Harris added British Airways’ forthcoming new Boeing 777 service and plans for three new luxury hotels due to open on Grand Cayman by 2021 would see the Cayman Islands become an increasingly attractive option for British holidaymakers in the coming years and help the tourist board work more closely with the UK trade.
Cayman’s tourism sector saw another record in May with 40,591 air arrivals for the month. It was the first time Cayman exceeded 40,000 passengers in May.
It was also the sixth consecutive month of exceeding that threshold.
The growth in air arrivals is predominantly coming from North America. This includes 500 more passengers in May from the Denver area, where Cayman Airways launched a new route in March, and 600 more passengers from the Southwest region of the US, namely out of Houston and Dallas.
Harris said, “Overall, we believe that aviation stimulates travel.”
Southwest Airlines started servicing out of Houston and American Airlines added more frequent flights from Dallas, in addition to the new Cayman Airways route from Denver.
In June, Cayman welcomed the first flight out of Baltimore on Southwest Airlines.
“We expect to see movement in the Baltimore local area and potentially feeder cities coming through Baltimore,” the DOT director said.
The US and Canada were also the main regions driving stayover tourism growth in 2018.
The US market remained by far the largest source market for Cayman tourism with 385,000 visitors, an increase of 13%. And 27,000 Canadian stayover tourists meant an increase of 7.5%, a reversal from a previous lull.
“Canada is making a very nice comeback,” Harris said. “We know from our partners that when the dollar does not perform well, they don’t travel. And that has stabilised and we see Canadians return to the Cayman Islands. The airlines as well WestJet and Air Canada have also committed more air capacity into the destination.”
Europe represents about 5% of the total volume of stayover tourists. UK and Ireland are the main markets within the European region, but the Department of Tourism is planning to attract more visitors from Germany, where a tour operator will be elected soon to sell the Cayman Islands.
Brazil, Argentina and Mexico on the other hand represent only 2% of the volume, but visitors from these countries travel at different times of the year, which might help stem the seasonal decline of North American visitors each September, October and November.
On a recent trip to the International Luxury Travel Market in Shanghai, the department found that the Cayman Islands “is very much top of mind but from a business perspective”, Harris said, but the travel and real estate opportunities have to be communicated more. To attract more tourists from China, Cayman will have to first obtain the approved destination status from the Chinese government and formulate how to effectively penetrate the market, the DOT director noted.
Cayman’s potential cruise berthing facility came one step closer to reality Wednesday, when Premier Alden McLaughlin announced that MSC Cruises has made a financial commitment to the project. Royal Caribbean, Disney and Carnival had previously signed on to help build the facility in George Town.
MSC Cruises has signed a letter of intent to provide $15 million in financing on the project, bringing the total amount pledged between the four cruises lines to a total of $180 million. The total cost of the project is still unknown, and government is sorting between three proposals to carry out the project. The completed bids were initially expected by the end of the first quarter in 2019, but McLaughlin said Monday that the bidders have asked for a little more time to finalise their proposals.
“It’s a complex arrangement,” said McLaughlin when reached by the Cayman Compass. “That’s why we’re in the sixth year of development. This project spans three administrations.”
McLaughlin said that the government has spent $7 million on consultants, research and development, and environmental impact assessments regarding the project.
McLaughlin said Thursday that the cruise lines that have already agreed to finance the facility will have preferential use of the facility.
A bid for a construction company to complete the project is pending.
“These agreements, coupled with the finance to be provided by whichever entity is eventually selected as the preferred bidder on the project, ensure that no public funding will be required to build the cruise berths and enhanced cargo facility,” he said in an official statement.
“As well as strengthening the project’s financing structure, having cruise companies financially vested in the project provides assurance that the country’s finances will not be exposed to risk and is a positive indication of their commitment to our Islands for decades to come. It is a win-win situation for the country, the preferred bidder and the cruise lines.”
A PwC study indicated that a cruise ship berthing facility could reasonably be expected to create 500 construction jobs immediately. And then over the course of decades, studies show that the facility could bring $245 million in economic benefits to Cayman.
Grand Cayman It’s home to one of the greatest beaches in the world — but it’s also so much more. Seven Mile Beach is home to two of the most luxurious hotels in the Caribbean, the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman and the Kimpton Seafire (and a broad collection of places to stay, from the new Margaritaville to WIMCO villas; an array of culinary options and an unparalleled comfort and ease. And did we mention Camana Bay?
The Cayman Islands is as sophisticated, well-developed and easy-to-explore a destination as there is in the Caribbean right now — and that’s why it’s gotten the number one slot for 2019.
(CNS): Premier Alden McLaughlin has declared that Thursday, 28 March 2019, will be a public holiday in honor of the royal visit to the Cayman Islands by Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla. Describing the anticipated arrival of the royal couple next month as a the most important highlight among many for 2019, McLaughlin said the coming year “will be very good for our islands”. The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will be making a two-day visit to the islands next month at the end of a Caribbean tour that will include the first ever British royal visit to Cuba.
The royals are due to arrive in Cayman on the afternoon of Wednesday, 27 March, and Prince Charles’ first royal duty will be to officially open the new airport facility. Speaking about that anticipated event at the Chamber Legislative Luncheon on Thursday, the premier said, “This will be a proud moment for all who call these islands home.”
Hitting out at the recent critics of the airport cost overruns and delays, the premier said that when the airport expansion was designed, it was based on what was affordable at the time. But since then government finances have improved, offering the chance to make “a very good new airport experience even better”.
McLaughlin said that “broadly half of the additional spend was the result of positive decisions to improve the quality of the redeveloped airport” and that he was “satisfied that decisions …were sensible and affordable”.
Government has also begun a procurement process to introduce new immigration and passport control kiosks, with a pilot of four kiosks to be in place by the end of 2019, with a view to speed up the process at the new airport.
He said the customs intelligence-led approach has already helped move things more quickly for travellers at the airport. Noting this month’s launch of the new Customs and Border Control Agency, the premier pointed to growing customs revenue, even with the new higher duty-free allowance, as well as the increase in the number of successful interdictions by border control officers.
The Cayman Islands welcomed a total of 410,984 stay over visitors in the first eleven months of 2018. This represents an 11.26 percent increase over the first eleven months of 2017. Total visitation for the year 2017 was 418,403.
November air arrivals into the Cayman Islands totaled to 38,172 visitors, a 9.07 percent increase over 2017. Visitation from the United States increased by 10.43 percent. Of significant note is the Southeast region which recorded a 19.44 percent increase over 2017. These figures were aided by the addition of JetBlue’s daily service from Fort Lauderdale in October. The Northeast region increased by 6.42 percent and was complemented by an increase in flight capacity from JetBlue and our national airline, Cayman Airways. The Southwest region recorded a 16.3 percent increase over 2017; while the West Coast and Midwest region recorded a 15.97 and 4.55 percent respectively. Canadian arrivals showed strong performance as well, with increased visitation at 13.27 percent growth over November 2017. Visitation grew by 10.3 percent in the Latin American market.
Sustained growth is expected in the first quarter of 2019 with several key events happening in the destination. The 11th annual Cayman Cookout, which unites award-winning chefs and winemakers with worldwide purveyors of gourmet food, returns to the Culinary Capital of the Caribbean January 16 – 20, 2019. Taste of Cayman, a celebration of the Cayman Islands’ culinary heritage, returns to the Festival Green, Camana Bay January 26, 2019. To top it all off, the Cayman Islands is the host destination for KAABOO Cayman, set for February 15 – 16, 2019. The event will welcome a wide spectrum of musicians such as The Chainsmokers, Duran Duran, ZEDD, Jason Derulo; comedians such as Wanda Sykes, David Spade, Jenny Slate, Darrell Hammond and chefs such as Michael Mina, Richard Blais, Michell Bernsteinand Nina Compton.