2019 has seen an explosion of growth Island-wide as industries continue to expand and develop, including the record-breaking tourism numbers in the first half of the year. Air arrivals set new records, with 40,000 tourist air arrivals each month for six consecutive months. New developments and roadworks continue to appear around Cayman to cater for the influx of tourists and new residents.
Changes include expanding the Linford Pierson Highway and extending Elgin Avenue, among many others.
Government discussed plans to build Cayman upwards instead of outwards, and Dart continued in this vein with a proposal for a 1.5 billion dollar skyscraper. Palm Heights, formerly Beach Suites, was reopened with a stunning new look, the Locale Hotel finally opened and, along with 351 licenced Airbnb listings, increased the number of rooms available in Cayman to 6,688. This number will continue to grow with the opening of the new Grand Hyatt Grand Cayman, and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Beach Bay.
The George Town revitalisation project is underway, with immediate plans to improve the lighting on Edwards and Albert Panton Street, add some city furniture and plant some much-needed shade trees, among other short, and long-term plans to beautify the capital.
Plans to develop Barker’s Beach into a resort and beach bar have caused public outcry by those wanting to preserve the last undeveloped stretch of beach in West Bay. Proposed plans for the property include clearing 180,000sq ft of the surrounding seagrass to construct a 300ft dock, significantly impacting the delicate ecosystems in the marine park.
The proposed port extension and cruise berthing facility in George Town remains controversial. Concerned citizens started a petition in August 2018, and have now gathered enough signatures to initiate a referendum. Yet even without this expansion, Cayman welcomed a record-breaking 2.4 million visitors to the Island in 2018 as stayover visitor numbers grew by 10.7% and cruise ship passengers increased by 11.1%. Even without a dock we welcomed 1,921,057 cruise ship passengers.
Renovations to the Owen Robert’s International Airport are complete. The new 200,000sq ft facility, designed to handle up to 2.7 million travellers per year, has already received a record-breaking number of arrivals. Amongst these arrivals, the Island welcomed the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall in March to officially reopen the terminal. Improvements to the runway have also been planned to enhance safety and efficiency. New airport links continue to be forged, including links with Denver, Baltimore, Houston and Dallas. The new Boeing 737 Max 8 aircrafts added to the Cayman Airways fleet have been suspended until further notice following safety issues with the aircrafts.
The unemployment rate in Cayman has dropped to 2.8%, from 2018’s low of 3.4%, the lowest that unemployment has been since 2006 (2.6%). These statistics correlate with the 9.9% rise in the labour force, caused by Cayman’s ever-growing population. The population expanded by 3.8% last year to reach 65,813 in December of 2018.
Cayman’s economy expanded by 3.3% in 2018 with record visitor numbers and a boom in construction moving the economy forward. Cayman’s per capita income rose to $70,956 from $67,887 the year before.
Cayman hosted the KAABOO festival and the CARIFTA games in 2019; both were a huge success. KAABOO sold out both days with 10,000 attendees for the weekend, enjoying musical performances, artwork, food and drink, and other entertainment. Sadly it will not be returning in 2020. The 48th annual CARIFTA games hosted 52 of our own athletes, over 600 guest athletes, and officials from all over the region. Cayman took home the bronze javelin medal, won by Rachell Pascal.
The Government mandated green iguana cull has been a great success. Over 900,000 green iguanas have been culled by September, and the project is well underway to meet its total by the deadline.
There are major capital developments and big changes in Cayman’s infrastructure to look forward to in 2020.