September 22, 2020

The state of Caribbean Tourism [Cayman tourism director gives report]


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630x355By Brian Major From Travel Pulse

Tourism leaders in several key Caribbean destinations are working to extend growing land-based and cruise ship arrivals by re-developing infrastructure, supporting new resort properties and promoting sustainable tourism initiatives, said officials at the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO)’s State of the Industry Conference in St. Thomas, U.S. this week.

Government tourism officials provided a series of updates Tuesday on their islands’ land-based and cruise ship tourist arrival numbers, outlining new tourist infrastructure and hotel and resort development projects.

Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands is working earnestly to re-develop its tourism infrastructure even as it enjoys record land and cruise ship arrivals, said Rosa Harris, director of tourism at the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism ().

“We’re having a stellar year. We’re up 10 percent over 2013; as of July, we’ve welcomed 249,684 visitors by air. We are also having a fantastic year with cruise,” Harris said.

Indeed, the Cayman Islands hosted 861,517 cruise visitors between January and June of this year, an 8.6 percent increase over 2013 and the fourth-highest total among CTO-traced destinations. “We have seen a significant increase year-over-year since 2009. We ended last year up 7.4 percent over 2012,” Harris said.

The country’s tourism success comes as officials seek to rebuild its tourism infrastructure. The government is in the midst of an expansion of Owen Roberts International Airport, which currently operates at double its 500,000-person capacity during peak periods.

“Along with increasing air arrivals we also have an aging airport,” admitted Harris. The first phase of CIDOT’s 20-year plan to re-develop the airport will begin in the winter of 2015. However to create a “positive visitor experience” in the meantime, CIDOT recently built new shading leading into the open-air arrivals lounge said Harris. The agency will also expand the airport’s departure lounge with a permanent, air-conditioned tent that will include restaurant facilities and a 500-seat guest capacity.

“Our high season will be pressurized with the increased volume but managing a positive experience at our airport is very important,” she said.

CIDOT is also in the midst of a project to build a cruise ship terminal. Although it is among the world’s most popular cruise destinations, Cayman has no pier or terminal for large ships. Officials are currently engaged in an environmental impact assessment that will precede construction of a new pier and passenger terminal.

“It’s a very important study to allow the decision-makers to understand and balance how we will expand and enhance the cruise experience as well as being sensitive to the natural environment,” she said. The study is expected to be completed by the end of 2014.

Construction is also underway on a 263-room Kimpton Hotel property, along with an as-yet unnamed 208-room hotel on the site of a former Hyatt hotel. Harris said a luxury resort is also is also planned for Cayman’s Bodden Town district.

U.S. Virgin Islands

“We have been extremely fortunate over the last several years in terms of arrivals, both air and sea,” said Beverly Nicholson-Doty, the U.S. Virgin Islands’ commissioner of tourism. “We have also seen significant increase in our airlift, with air coming from almost every point in the United States,” she said.

Specifically, Seaborne Airlines has established new interline service with American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Jet Blue and United Airlines. She said the destination has added 22,000 new seasonal and permanent airline seats within the past year.

The U.S Virgin Island has also launched improvements at Cyril E. King airport, including a complete renovation of the baggage claim area, a new restaurant area, new automated signage, new concession spaces and a new welcome booth. Guest greeters wearing distinctive purple shirts have also been deployed to assist arriving passengers.

In addition, “Year over year our air arrivals are up. Cruise arrivals were up in the winter and flat in the summer; we are anticipating a slight improvement in cruise visitors,” said Nicholson-Doty. “I look at dollars and our RevPar is significantly up. While we have increased our numbers we want to increase our revenue even more.”

“There has been a significant growth in RevPAR and occupancy in the past two years,” confirmed Lisa Hamilton, president of U.S. Virgin Islands Hotel and Tourism Association. “We had a jump in RevPAR of almost 13 percent between 2012 and 2014,” she said. “Year to date through July, occupancy is 73.2 percent versus 68.6 percent; ADR (average daily rate) is $256.27 versus $250.74, up 2.2 percent.” Hamilton added RevPAR is at $187.71 in July 2014 versus 172.11 in July 2013, an increase of 9.1 percent.

New developments in the territory will include a new Margaritaville property on the site of a former Renaissance resort that will open in February with 75 rooms, the initial phase in a project that will ultimately include 220 rooms, said Nicholson Doty. The Westin St. John is engaged in a $50 million renovation, including refurbished public and meeting spaces and restaurants. Also, the Ritz-Carlton has commenced a “multi-million dollar renovation” said Hamilton, which includes enhanced guest rooms and public areas.

Turks & Caicos

“As of this year we enjoyed a 30 percent increase in tourist arrivals on average in both the cruise tourism sector as well as in overnight stays, with most guests staying seven days,” said Dr. Rufus Ewing, the Turks & Caicos’ premier and minister of tourism. “We also enjoyed an increase in airlift from North America, where most of our tourists come from,” he said.

“Currently we are about to complete the expansion of our international airport, which will happen in early October or late November,” said Ewing. “Naturally that will facilitate increased airlift to our destination, and with that we can welcome even more investment in terms of room keys,” he said. “Currently we have about 3,000 hotel rooms across the Turks & Caicos.” Ewing said the country will add another 1,500 hotel rooms over the next five years.

New properties in development will include the Shore Club, a 150-room condominium/hotel; a Ritz-Carlton brand hotel in Providenciales; there are also “expressions of interest” in a Westin-branded hotel on Grand Turk Ewing said.

He described the impact of the recent expansion of the Beaches Turks & Caicos property as “tremendous,” saying, “Although it is all-inclusive we consider Beaches a high-end property in Turks & Caicos, and the acquisition of the additional property nearby has been tremendous.

“The occupancy has been very high for the season,” said Ewing. “Last year they had to close for the low season of September and October, but this year with the addition and the support of the government it has remained open throughout the slow season and that has done well for the economy.”

“We have registered a 16.4 percent increase in tourism arrivals for the months between January and August,” said Chantal Davis, deputy director of tourism for Anguilla. “In anticipation of increased visitor arrivals we have launched an expansion of the airport to create a private jetway that will be completed for the upcoming season.”

Davis said Anguilla’s Malliouhana Hotel & Spa will re-open in November following a multi-million, full-scale renovation that will include a new 15,000 square foot spa. Also the CuisinArt Resort & Spa will launch The Reef by CuisinArt, a 62-room sister property, in 2015.

IMAGE: “We have been extremely fortunate over the last several years in terms of arrivals, both air and sea,” said U.S. Virgin Islands tourism commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty. (Photo by Brian Major)

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