Preliminary visitor numbers for 2018 for the Cayman Islands indicate that the country is on track to surpass 2017's record stayover visitations of 418,403.
Final numbers are yet to be tallied, but numbers from January through November totaled 410,984, an 11.2% jump over the same period in 2017.
Moses Kirkconnell, deputy premier and minister of tourism, is optimistic that the momentum will continue through this year, and he attributed the growth in arrivals to the resilience of the Cayman Islands "through strong stakeholder partnerships, high investor confidence and a national commitment to the development of our infrastructure."
U.S. visitors dominated the arrivals with increases from all regions, particularly the southeast in the third quarter with the addition of JetBlue's daily service from Fort Lauderdale.
Helping to sustain the accelerated visitor growth this year will be several events on the calendar, including the Cayman Arts Festival, Feb. 7; the inaugural Kaaboo Cayman, an event that pairs music and comedy Feb. 15 and 16; the annual Cayman Carnival/Batabano April 20; the Flowers Sea Swim, a one-mile swim along the shores of Seven Mile Beach on June 15, and the Pirates Week Festival in mid-November.
Meanwhile, the destination will celebrate the completion in March of the $67 million expansion project at Owen Roberts Airport on Grand Cayman. The project triples the size of the existing airport to accommodate 2.5 million travelers per year.
Hotel and resort projects of note last year include the completion of the two-phase, $50 million renovation at the Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa and the renovation and redesign of Luxury Cayman Villas' six-bedroom Point of View Villa.
Further down the pipeline will be the beachfront Mandarin Oriental, Grand Cayman with 100 guestrooms and 89 residences on the island's southern shore, slated to debut in 2021, as well as the 351-room Grand Hyatt Grand Cayman Hotel & Residencies on Seven Mile Beach.