It’s fair skies for Grand Cayman as its high-performing economy continues to develop, innovate and diversify.

The island is experiencing an unprecedented development boom, with many high-end projects and major infrastructure enhancements in the works. Among the projects in the pipeline: luxury resorts, spas, high-end residences, office complexes, health and wellness amenities, new businesses, technology, commercial enterprises – and the list goes on.
It spells good news for job creation and growth, allowing future generations to continue to tell Cayman’s ongoing success story.

In short, it’s blue skies ahead for the Cayman Islands.

Grand Hyatt Grand Cayman Hotel and Residences on Pageant Beach

Boom times

Cayman’s tourism sector is enjoying a banner season, setting record-breaking numbers in 2017, and officials are expecting continued growth in 2018; the real estate market is booming; developers are embarking on multi-million-dollar projects including five-star resorts and luxury residential communities; and the government and private sector are making significant inroads on infrastructure improvements, including roadways and airport facilities.

It all spells confidence in Cayman’s economy – and future.
Writes RE/MAX broker/owner James Bovell in the Cayman Compass: “As verification of the fact that the Cayman Islands is an excellent place in which to invest, we see our condos and hotels completely booked out over the busy winter season, with full occupancies, giving investors steady and consistently solid returns.”

Indeed, air arrivals hit record levels last year, with 418,403 visitors touching down at the Owen Roberts International Airport. That represents an increase of 8.5 percent from the previous year, and a 54 percent growth since 2009.

The numbers continue to climb this year, with a record-breaking 39,185 air arrivals in January. That represents a 24 percent increase over last year, and a 14 percent hike on January 2015, the previous record.

Cruise arrivals were up marginally last year, with 1.73 million passengers arriving at the port, a one percent gain over the previous year.

In total, more than 2.1 million people arrived on these shores by air and sea in 2017. The Department of Tourism estimates the stay-over sector spent some $485 million in hotels, restaurants, attractions and businesses last year – a $55 million increase over 2016.

“The important part for the private sector and for entrepreneurial Caymanians is that this kind of growth translates into more businesses and more opportunity,” Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell commented in the Cayman Compass.

Commenting on January’s record-breaking numbers, he said: “I am optimistic that if we continue this path, 2018 will be another record-breaking year for arrivals and that the Cayman Islands will benefit from economic growth that all can be proud of.”

The Residences of Stone Island near the Yacht Club
Rum Point Club Residences

New developments

Indeed, that opportunity is showing all over the island, with an explosion of developments. Last year, more high-value planning applications were approved than ever before. Projects approved by the Central Planning Authority were double the value compared with the same period in 2016.

The planning authority approved 1,013 projects in 2017, ranging from private homes to major hotels, with a combined value of $688 million. The previous highest recorded net value for planning approvals in a year was $481 million, in 2008.

The impact of this growing investment has contributed to the vibrancy and growth of the economy and significant job creation.

In his budget address, Premier Alden McLaughlin cited these figures as a sign of Cayman’s robust economy.

“This reflects the increased confidence investors have as a result of the economic performance and fiscal stability that now characterizes the Islands,” he said.

Leading the way in high-value development is Dart Real Estate, with multiple projects in the wings. Among them: Dart’s first-of-its-kind underpass on West Bay Road; a new Foster’s supermarket in Camana Bay; construction of another Class A office building in Camana Bay, One Nexus Way; and a five-star hotel on Seven Mile Beach that incorporates the current site of Royal Palms, a property it purchased last year. The resort is expected to be a Four Seasons hotel.

Luxury hotel chain Hyatt is returning to Grand Cayman after announcing a deal to operate the new five-star resort on the former Pageant Beach site at the southern end of West Bay Road.

Expected to open late 2020, the company has entered into a franchise agreement with developer Pageant Beach Hotel for the 351-room Grand Hyatt Grand Cayman Hotel and Residences. Howard Hospitality Group, the company behind the development, was granted full planning permission for the 10-story resort, which will include six cafes and restaurants, a spa and fitness center, three swimming pools, shops and a private screening room.

NCB Group is building a 80-unit, six-story boutique wellness and business hotel on the site of the old Treehouse restaurant, opposite Kirk supermarket in George Town.

NCB’s Wellness & Business Boutique Hotel on the oceanfront in George Town

A major development in the eastern districts is Ironwood’s Arnold Palmer golf course and resort. Developer Joseph Imparato plans to build a 100-room clubhouse and lodge, along with a luxury hotel and condominiums. The project is a partnership between the Arnold Palmer group and Imparato’s company, City Services Ltd.

Another tourism venture is a beachfront “healing resort” on the site of the old Mariners Cove in Prospect. Being undertaken by Kim and Ashleigh Lund, Revive Resort will feature a spa, medical center, healing center and wellness facilities, including yoga and meditation. All the buildings, including 28 guest rooms, will be dome-shaped.

Cayman’s tourism product recently received some international limelight with Sun Serenity – a family vacation villa rental at Rum Point undertaken by Encompass Ltd. – winning a Five-Star Award for Best Single Residential Property in the World at the 2017 International Property Awards. The award is a world-renowned mark of excellence recognizing the highest levels of achievement by companies operating in all sectors of the property and real estate industry.

Sun Serenity at Rum Point

In other ventures, infrastructure surrounding Health City Cayman Islands has been steadily moving forward, including a $17 million apartment and retail development. Work on another apartment building will begin this summer, and a triage/trauma center is also planned. Other phases in the development include the expansion of the hospital into all specialties, a medical university, tech park and cancer center.

Cayman Enterprise City, a knowledge and technology focused Special Economic Zone, is luring more clients to Cayman thanks to the growing global blockchain and cryptocurrency trend. Dozens of companies involved in these technologies have set up shop here, with additional clients in the process of establishing a home in “Cayman Tech City,” a branded branch of zone that caters to tech-related entities.

In its six years, CEC has grown to include 225 global companies from nearly two dozen countries, with plans to build a 53-acre campus. Officials expect to break ground before the end of this year, with the first phase of the project encompassing three office buildings totaling more than 60,000 square feet.

Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa on the left and the Seafire Residences building on the right

Upscale homes

The luxury residential market is also booming, particularly along South Sound with such developments as FIN, The Sanctuary, Vela Phase III, Cayman Crossing Phase III, TIDES and Shore Club.

Other luxury residences are taking shape across the island including Leeward Quay in North Sound Estates, SOLARA in Crystal Harbour, the Residences of Stone Island in the Yacht Club neighborhood, Boggy Sands on Seven Mile Beach, SeaHaven in North Sound and Twenty 40 in Governor’s Harbour.

In North Side, developer Joseph Imparato is introducing a collection of beachfront residences, Rum Point Club, along with Kembali Kai, five island-style boating homes.
Periwinkle is a new development in Grand Harbour featuring 86 residences and Indigo Bay is being developed by Charlton Developments across from Grand Harbour, featuring 29 ocean-view townhouses. Canal-front homes are being developed at The Channels, 81 West in Prospect.

Indigo Bay residential community near Grand Harbour

A 10-story luxury condo complex is being developed on Seven Mile Beach. Aqua, which features a multimillion-dollar home on every floor, will be the fourth 10-story building on Seven Mile Beach after The WaterColours complex and the twin towers of the Kimpton Seafire resort.

The Central Planning Authority also approved plans for a $25 million plaza on West Bay Road featuring a mix of retail outlets, restaurants and apartments. The Grove will include six buildings surrounding a landscaped park and courtyard, with the ground floor featuring space for 35 shops, cafes and restaurants and the top floor reserved for 58 apartments.
Coldwell Banker’s 2017 Year End Market Report shows the average sales price for all properties sold by November 2017 was US$650,000.

“This is very impressive, considering it covers all types of property,” the report states. “But the average sale which is still pending closing (which means it likely went to contract after those which are already in the sold column) is US$994,000. This is a huge increase and indicates the considerable upward movement in prices in Cayman.”

The report forecasts “sunny skies and warm breezes for the first half of 2018” and “potential for a record-breaking year in Cayman for 2018.”

Parrot Ridge

Infrastructure upgrades

To support this growth, major infrastructure upgrades are ongoing, including the $55-million expansion to Grand Cayman’s Owen Roberts International Airport. A new wing to the check-in area and new arrivals hall have opened, and travelers can expect similar unveilings over the coming months as the airport is completed, piece by piece.

Once complete, the airport will be able to handle 2.1 million passengers per year, nearly double the 1.2 million that currently use the facility annually. The project is expected to be complete by the end of 2018.

Roadwork improvements are moving ahead, including widening the Linford Pierson Highway to four lanes. The Esterley Tibbetts Highway is also expanding to four lanes. The project is being undertaken by Dart Real Estate in conjunction with the National Roads Authority.
Other major developments include the 2017 opening of a new three-lane roundabout and vehicular underpass on the realigned Esterley Tibbetts Highway. The top of the underpass serves as a pedestrian overpass, linking Camana Bay Town Centre to Seven Mile Beach.
Smaller upgrades are in the works as well, including the construction of a 1,500-foot-long boardwalk, benches, parking and a bike lane in the South Sound area near the Cayman Crossing subdivision. The government beautification and improvement project is expected to be complete by summer.

“The Cayman Islands has rightfully earned its place as one of the regional leaders in infrastructure development, is one of the safest Caribbean jurisdictions and is positioned to receive the ripple effects caused by the recent positive economic growth in the U.S.,” said Jackie Doak, president of Dart Real Estate, in the Cayman Compass. “This in turn breeds confidence from developers and investors alike.”

Adds real estate broker Kim Lund: “Cayman has reached a tipping point and become quite attractive, not only to tourists, but investors wanting second homes and a safe place to invest. The huge improvements that are being made to our infrastructure make Cayman a better place to visit and live.”

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