Wednesday,  August 12, 2020  5:57 am

Food, families and the Toronto Raptors: a big year for the Cayman Islands

Food, families and the Toronto Raptors: a big year for the Cayman Islands
Rum Point on Grand Cayman
Blake Wolfe

Blake Wolfe is an award-winning journalist and editor, who joined PAX after nearly 10 years in Canada’s newspaper industry. In addition to PAX, his work has been featured in publications such as the Metroland Media group of newspapers and the Toronto Sun.

In recent years, the Cayman Islands have been enjoying record growth from Canada and, with a little help from the Toronto Raptors, those numbers may climb even higher.

The destination will be in the spotlight this Monday night (Oct. 28), in a segment to be broadcast during the Raptors match against the Orlando Magic. While Raymond Mathias, the Cayman Islands’ business development manager for Canada, declined to provide any specific details, he hinted that the segment will feature one of three 2019 NBA champions who chose to vacation in Cayman Islands following the team’s historic win earlier this year.

Record growth

While the Raptor in question may be among the most well-known visitors to Cayman Islands from Canada in recent years, Canadian arrivals overall have steadily been on the rise, Mathias said, adding that November 2018 to June 2019 represented eight months of consecutive growth from Canada.

“2018 was a year of record-breaking arrivals for the destination as a whole – 463,000 stayover visitors globally, representing a 10.7 per cent increase,” he told PAX. “There was a 7.5 per cent increase from Canada – 26,600 Canadians came to Cayman in 2018 – and January, May, September, November and December were record months. There was also 17 per cent growth in 2019 through August – the Canadian market continues to boom this year.”

The reason behind the growth? More direct flights from Canada, Mathias explained: from Toronto this winter, Air Canada offers five flights while WestJet will offer three.

“The more flights you get, the more awareness you generate,” he said. “All parties are working together to grow the destination.

Seven Mile Beach continues to draw travellers from around the world.

Raising awareness

Also contributing to those numbers is a growing consumer awareness of the destination, Mathias explained, as exemplified by the upcoming Raptors segment, but also through the destination’s engagement of the travel trade, such as Cayman Islands’ Travel Agent University.

“We’ve been engaging our agent audience - more agents are getting to know CI and how to sell it,” he said.

Mathias added that while the destination draws a wide range of visitors (generally boasting higher-than-average incomes, he said), the Cayman Islands have seen the most growth in the multigen segment, with a wide range of accommodations, including luxury villas, ready to welcome multigen groups.

What the destination lacks in all-inclusives, it makes up for in boutique properties, with two openings of note this winter, both located on Seven Mile Beach: these include the rebranded Palm Heights (formerly the Beach Suites), offering 52 suites; and The Locale, with 42 rooms featuring a “millennial vibe,” Mathias said.

Bon appetit

Mathias added that the destination also actively encourages travellers to explore Cayman Islands beyond the resorts, with a focus on a growing culinary reputation.

Billing itself as the ‘Culinary Capital of the Caribbean,’ the destination is home to more than 220 restaurants, including Blue by Eric Ripert, the Caribbean’s only AAA Five Diamond restaurant located in the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman. Riepert’s restaurant is also home to the renowned Cayman Cookout festival each January, one of several food and drink festivals held throughout the year, which also includes Restaurant Month and Cocktail Week celebrated each October.

Food is so important here that even a particular weekly meal is cause for celebration.

“Sunday brunch is an institution in Cayman,” Mathias said. “There’s so many choices available at the various restaurants.”

For agents

Travel agents looking to learn more can visit Cayman Islands’ Travel Agent University and enrol for a number of benefits, including Cayman Rewards, e-newsletters and invites to FAMs.

“Cayman Islands has one of highest repeat visitation factors,” Mathias said. “The challenge is getting the client there the first time, but once they go, they keep coming back.”

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