Cayman Island Tourism Exceeds Expectations
Kailani Grand Cayman
The Cayman Islands is a popular tourist destination known for its stunning beaches, warm weather, and diverse culinary scene. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the destination is well on its way to surpassing the successful tourism numbers it received annually before 2019.
According to the Cayman Islands Government, the destination welcomed over 1 million visitors in 2022, with 284,274 staying overnight and 743,394 arriving on cruise ships. Both stay-over and cruise visitation exceeded the goals set by the government and demonstrate the continued resurgence of travel to the Cayman Islands.
There is a lot to look forward to in the Cayman Islands as the destination continues to diversify its tourism product. There are several new hotels in the pipeline, including Vida Cayman Adventure Lodge and Kailani Grand Cayman, A Curio Collection by Hilton Hotel, which are slated to open in 2023. In addition, the Hotel Indigo and Grand Hyatt Grand Cayman Residences are set to open their doors in 2024.
VIDA Grand Cayman
Rosa Harris, Director of Tourism for the Cayman Islands, highlights that resort-residential developments are an important part of the destination’s accommodations mix. Residential resorts played a vital role in Cayman tourism’s bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic. When restrictions were eased, the first people to return to the island were condo owners who were eager to come back home. Nearly 47 percent of visitors in 2022 were repeat visitors, indicating the importance of the resort-residential mix.
Rosa Harris The Cayman Islands Director of Tourism
The Cayman Islands was COVID-19 free for approximately 12 months during the height of the pandemic, thanks to strict mitigation measures and the early release of the COVID-19 Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. All travel restrictions were lifted at the end of August 2022, and air arrivals began to soar. The destination provided a soft opening regime for its borders, requiring a testing and vaccination program that allowed visitors to travel to the Cayman Islands from September 2021. This phased approach to reopening allowed the country to prepare its citizens and residents for the return of visitors in a safe and measured way.
The United States accounted for 80.8 percent of all stay-over visitors, with the UK and Ireland being the fastest recovering market, reaching 77 percent of 2019’s visitation level. Canada followed at 66 percent of 2019’s level, with growth recorded in July, October, and December 2022. Latin America was the third-fastest recovering market, reaching 60 percent of 2019 visitation.
There is much to experience in the Cayman Islands, with an always-buzzing culinary scene, new hotels, and a tri-island tourism product that continues to diversify. Recent restaurant additions include The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman’s Saint June, formerly Bar jack, featuring sophisticated and stylish food and beverage offerings with an expansive view of Seven Mile Beach. West Bay is becoming the island’s new dining hub with Le Petit Bar and Nova Cayman.
Local festivals are returning, with the Taste of Cayman food festival and annual carnivals, Batabano and CayMas, scheduled for May and June, respectively. The destination has set an overall visitation goal of 70 percent of 2019’s numbers for 2023. The momentum and growth seen in the first quarter of the year suggest that the Cayman Islands will continue to be a top destination for travelers in the years to come.