From expanded air access to new and renovated properties, The Cayman Islands are calling to meeting planners, showcasing both traditional island attractions and cutting-edge event offerings. Among the destination's provisions is the recent introduction of Southwest Airlines, flying out of Fort Lauderdale. This new flight comes on the heels of last year's expanded air service to Dallas from American Airlines and United Airlines service between Grand Cayman and Chicago -- in addition to the destination's own Cayman Airways service.
"In the month of June, we had double-digit growth, and 18 percent growth from the U.S. specifically," says Rosa Harris, director of tourism at Cayman Islands Department of Tourism.
To meet this growing demand, the Owen Roberts International Airport in Grand Cayman is being expanded to almost three times its current size, including totally redesigned check-in areas, departure lounge, arrival hall, and customs area. Once the transformation is complete, the new facility will be able to accommodate 2.5 million passengers on an annual basis -- a big increase over the current capacity of one million passengers.
Helping stoke this interest is the new Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa
on the northern part of Seven Mile Beach, which opened its doors last November. The 266-room property, the first Kimpton in the Caribbean, boasts six private bungalows, native botanical gardens, a pair of ocean-view pools, and three signature restaurants. Plans are also moving forward on approximately 70 residences, which will offer the first adult-only pool in Cayman -- a sign of how this typically family-focused destination is targeting a more business-focused crowd.
"Traditionally, we've focused on families, but definitely we want to focus on seeing the return of meeting and incentives," says Harris. "And spurning from that, we know that when the person has traveled for business, they will also bring a partner with added-on personal time."
This spring, Margaritaville Beach Resort Grand Cayman
welcomed its first guests, with its signature License to Chill Bar, Margaritaville Coffee Shop, and 5 o'Clock Somewhere Bar & Grill. It offers 285 guest rooms, ballrooms, and conference space.
The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort
(pictured), continues to shine for groups as it finishes the renovations
of its 343 guest rooms (after having completely redone its lobby and public spaces). It offers seven breakout spaces that can accommodate up to 400 visitors as well as a pair of executive boardrooms and the 650-capacity Governor's Ballroom.
In the last two and a half years, Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman
has undergone a renovation of all its 365 guest rooms and public areas. It now offers more than 13,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space as well as a Culinary Studio ideal for smaller groups looking to do cooking demos and classes.
Speaking of culinary offerings, the destination's food and drink options continue to be a major draw (and great activity option) for visiting meetings, conferences, and incentives. Harris points out that with 135 nationalities living in the Cayman Islands and more than 230 restaurants, there are no shortage of culinary influences or options.
"There is a lot of farming activity that also supports the local restaurants, and the whole farm-to-table offering as well," says Harris. "Over the last six years we now have a farmer's market, and there is really no season: We have lots of fresh fruit and vegetables year-round that help support local restaurants. So, we really like to say that we're the culinary capital of the Caribbean, definitely for the quality, the diversity, and just the attentiveness in terms of the service and enjoying the environment that we have in Cayman."