The all-inclusive model may be in the works in the Cayman Islands' accommodations sector in the near future, according to Rosa Harris, the country's director of tourism.
Harris hinted at that during a recent interview: “As a destination committed to continued expansion and diversification of our guest offerings, we are certainly open to welcoming the all-inclusive model into our vast accommodation portfolio islandwide, and specifically on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac.
“We believe that part of what makes the Cayman Islands so desirable among travelers is the amount of options we provide guests, whether it is in dining, accommodations or activities, so this truly feels like a natural progression of that promise,” she said.
Several resorts include breakfast or offer an option for a modified food-and-beverage program in their rate plans, but a true all-inclusive resort is still to come.
In terms of alternate accommodations, she said, “we've signed with Airbnb, which has allowed entrepreneurs to open up the cottage and villa industry for guests." There are 300 licensed and inspected Airbnb listings on Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, she said.
She acknowledged that high-season hotel rates target the “price-insensitive luxury traveler. We try to compete by offering lower rates when the Caribbean is on sale during the summer season.
"What Airbnb does is to make a vacation in a cottage on the beach in Bodden Town, Grand Cayman, affordable and memorable for the cost-conscious traveler, and opens up new markets for us."
On the resort side, the Margaritaville Beach Resort on Grand Cayman's Seven Mile Beach moves toward its grand opening this fall, following a soft opening of 100 rooms last spring. The Kimpton Seafire Resort & Spa launched last November; Le Soleil d'Or on Cayman Brac, the destination's first beachside farm-to-table wellness property anchored by a 20-acre organic farm, expanded its room count last year and added yoga retreats; the Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa recently completed its $50 million renovation project; and a 60-room boutique property with a wellness focus is planned in the near future outside the capital of George Town.
Harris reported a 12.8% increase in air arrivals in June compared with June 2016. She described the current airlift situation as “optimum,” helped in large part by Southwest Airlines' new service from Fort Lauderdale to Grand Cayman, which launched in June.
“We want to break the 400,000 visitor mark this year," she said. "It's an aggressive goal. Our numbers in 2016 totaled 385,000 stayover visitors, but we have had solid gains so far, and we may make that target."
One development that may help the Caymans meet its goal: The islands were removed from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Zika travel advisory list late last month, meaning no locally transmitted cases of the virus have been reported this year.
“We're ecstatic about that,” Harris said. “We lost business last year due to the threat of Zika."
The Cayman Islands Department of Health continues its preventative measures with fogging, distributing pellets at potential breeding sites and educating residents and guests with advice on repellants and proper clothing to wear to avoid being bitten.