An analysis of tourism arrival figures from the Department of Tourism’s (DoT) website gives a mixed picture of the state of the industry for the eight-year period spanning 2000 to 2007. The number of tourists arriving by air has witnessed recent increases but the long-term average for this period is down, where the opposite is true for cruise arrivals.
Prior to Hurricane Ivan in 2004, when there were 259,929 tourists arriving by air, there was an annual decrease from 354,087 in 2000. To put the figures in perspective they must be seen against the backdrop of the 2001 September 11 terrorists attack in America, and what the negative effects of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak, that occurred between November 2002 and July 2003 had on travel globally.
The 35 percent drop in air arrivals to 167,801 in 2005 was expected in the light of Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.
Although air arrivals rose by 74 percent to 291,503 in 2007 when compared to 2005, that figure is still 17 percent lower than the 2000 total.
Data on cruise tourist arrivals appear to show a more optimistic picture with a 40 percent increase in arrivals between 2000 and 2007. Numbers consistently increased between 2000 and 2003, with an expected decline in 2004 to 1,693,293.
A subsequent increase in the number of cruise tourist arrivals of 1,798,999 and 1,930,136 in 2005 and 2006 respectively, was not sustained in 2007 when the figure dropped by 11 percent to 1,715,666.
These figures challenge Tourism Minister Hon Charles Clifford’s assertions that cruise arrivals would increase. At the 25 October post-Cabinet press briefing, Mr Clifford said that Cayman had cashed in on the storm devastation of Cancun.
“As a result, the 2007 cruise arrivals may seem down from 2006 but are within the range of normal arrival figures experienced in other years,” he said.
He explained that 2006 was not an ideal barometer because an “above normal” season was experienced in Cayman after Cancun, a popular Mexican destination, was put out of commission by Hurricane Wilma.
At the end of 2007, Mr Clifford again dismissed the continuing fall in tourism figures saying that he was anticipating “a very strong winter for cruise arrivals ”and that 2008 cruise arrivals would show a “modest growth”. However, official cruise arrival figures for January 2008 already contradict the Minister’s view.
Figures for the tourist accommodation room stock, or the number of rooms available to tourists, are just below the levels recorded in 2004 before Hurricane Ivan.
DoT statistics list a total of 5,108 bedrooms in 243 properties for the 2003-2004 operating year and 4,484 bedrooms in 236 properties in 2006-2007.