2016 was a big year for tourism, and optimism is running high for a strong 2017 as several infrastructure projects continue to progress.
The Kimpton Seafire Resort and Spa opened its doors to major fanfare in November. The 266-room resort on the heart of Seven Mile Beach wasted no time earning accolades. It was named Caribbean Journal’s 2016 Caribbean hotel of the year.
Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell told Cayman 27 room stock and infrastructure go hand in hand.
“If infrastructure does not keep pace with the growth in arrivals, the investment that we as a country make in the marketing on a global basis will be wasted because we don’t have the rooms to sell,” said Mr. Kirkconnell at a tourism roundtable event in July.
Over at Owen Roberts International Airport, the waving gallery under the iconic A-frame may be saying goodbye, but the growing pains we felt in 2016 are paving the way for an airport built to handle 2.5 million passengers a year, 5 times the current airport’s capacity.
Government awaits a report detailing what it would cost to build the cruise berthing facility in deeper water to minimise environmental impacts associated with dredging. Mr. Kirkconnell estimated the price tag for the port could swell to the $200 million mark.
In March, after two years of concessions talks, work finally began to build a road to the future St. James Point resort in Beach Bay. That project is slated to open in late 2018.
And this month, Ironwood development announced it was moving ahead with the 600 acre development in Frank Sound after hinting funding could be jeopardised if a deadline to sign off on the East-West arterial extension was missed. But the National Conservation Council in October exercised its authority to require an Environmental Impact Assessment to be undertaken before the 10-mile extension can be built.
Some major thoroughfares are in the middle of major makeovers. Both the Linford Pierson Highway and the Esterly Tibbetts Highway are going from two lanes to four.
And back on Seven Mile Beach, the old Treasure Island resort prepares to emerge from its year-long construction phase as the 285-room Margaritaville resort, set to open its doors in January 2017.
And Dart Real Estate hopes its controversial beach rock removal will help secure a deal with a five-star hotel partner north of Tiki beach.
Meaning the a new neighbor for the Kimpton, and an estimated $600 million in economic impacts over the construction phase.