With fresh new faces and a commitment to the trade, the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism is on a mission to increase visitor numbers. Andrew Doherty finds out more.
Expect big things from the Cayman Islands, with its tourism department outlining a new strategy for boosting UK visitor numbers and changing perceptions of the Caribbean island.
Part of its five-year global tourism plan has seen the appointment of Adrian White, regional manager for UK and Europe, who will head up the marketing strategy, and new sales executive Irene Orozco, taking responsibility for developing trade partnerships.
“The Cayman Islands aren’t as well known as Barbados or Jamaica in the UK,” says White. “People think it’s quite expensive to stay there. And yes, while there are plenty of five-star luxury resorts and no all-inclusive hotels, we also have three-star options, apartments and villas. We want to show agents there are plenty of options for all budgets and tastes.”
To change perceptions and help agents sell Cayman, Orozco is overseeing a series of trade initiatives, including revamped online training, fam trips, roadshows and branch visits.
“We’ve organised the online training by themes,” she says. “There are more pictures, maps and fewer questions, making the process much quicker for busy agents.”
For White, forming stronger ties with the trade will further add to the Cayman Islands’ impressive performance in the UK market this year.
“We’ve just had our latest visitor arrivals for the UK and Ireland, which show a very strong June – numbers are up by 14% compared with this time last year,” he says.
The bolstered visitor figures (which stand at 8,321 from January to June) have been influenced by British Airways’ Christmas, New Year and March sales, which included return rates from £499 as well as the airline’s increased number of premium economy seats on its five-times-weekly service from Heathrow.
“By November, we hope to have great early booking offers for next summer,” says White. “If you get in early, then you will get the best prices.”
With a November fam trip in the pipeline as well as a slot booked at the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s 18 September roadshow in London, White is confident of Cayman’s continued success.
With opportunities to spot wildlife, explore dive sites and enjoy a diverse culinary scene, Orozco says the three bodies of land that make up the Cayman Islands – Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman – should offer something for all clients.
“A highlight during my trip was taking a kayaking tour at Bioluminescent Bay off Grand Cayman,” she says. “As you get closer to the phenomenon, which makes the water turn blue, the colours get brighter and lighter. It’s beautiful.”
More adventurous clients should head to Little Cayman’s dive sites, suggests White, which includes the Bloody Bay Wall, often cited as one of the best dive locations in the world.
“As you descend the coral, which drops off into an abyss, you will see the different layers of marine life. And, because the reef is so close to the island, clients can do a morning dive and return for lunch.”
Food is a popular attraction for visitors to the Cayman Islands, and with more than 200 restaurants, from fine-dining options to modest local establishments, Cayman’s gastronomic offering should appeal to discerning food lovers.
Upcoming culinary events to recommend to clients include the Cayman Cookout (16-20 January 2020), where UK chef Clare Smyth will join a line-up of celebrity culinarians at the Ritz-Carlton on Grand Cayman for a series of cooking demonstrations, tasting sessions, tours and dining experiences.
New hotel openings are in the pipeline too, including the 351-room Grand Hyatt Residences Grand Cayman that’s due for completion in late 2020; a Curio Collection by Hilton; and a Residences at Mandarin Oriental, Grand Cayman for 2021. An airport expansion is also set for completion next year.
But ultimately it’s Cayman’s welcoming people that will have Brits returning, says White.
“You can walk around anywhere at night and not feel intimidated. We don’t have to create the feeling of being in a small bubble; the entire country is like that.”