The islands are marking a significant milestone – the 60th anniversary of the creation of the coat of arms. A symbol of national identity, it lay the foundation for what has become modern-day Cayman, with Celebrate Cayman events taking place to showcase the island’s culture, history and community.
Cayman has made remarkable progress since the emblem was introduced in 1958. In the early days, Caymanians relied mainly on fishing and farming – living off the land and sea. But the island underwent rapid development. In the mid-1960s legislation was passed to take advantage of the country’s status as a tax-free jurisdiction, ushering in the start of Cayman’s ascent into the financial services world.
In the 1970s, as infrastructure developed, the island began a major transformation from an isolated seafaring community – the nation was once known as “the islands time forgot” – to a sophisticated offshore financial center and first-class tourism destination.
Premier Alden McLaughlin spoke about the importance of Celebrate Cayman earlier this year. “It is important to pause, to look back and reflect on where we’ve come from and celebrate key moments in our history,” he said. “We are proud of what we have achieved in the 60 years since it was granted and with how far we have come as a country…”
And it’s about to go farther as Grand Cayman is experiencing unprecedented economic growth and development. Numerous projects are springing up across the island, from West Bay to East End. That includes major projects by the Dart group, government, Health City Cayman Islands and Cayman Enterprise City along with numerous residential developments.
Cayman is once again undergoing a transformation that will create jobs, attract more visitors, diversify the economy and build a brighter tomorrow. And that, indeed, is reason to celebrate.
CELEBRATING … CAYMAN’S LUXURY RESORT BOOM
Grand Cayman has been seeing a wave of new hotel development catering to the luxury travel sector.
The Mandarin Oriental, Grand Cayman is the latest to come on stream, announcing in June that the five-star resort will be built in the Beach Bay area of Bodden Town. It’s the first luxury resort being built away from Seven Mile Beach.
The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group will manage the long-awaited luxury resort and residences, which are expected to open in 2021. The Hong Kong-based group has agreed on a deal with New York-based Melkonian Capital Management, which has been planning a major project at the site in Bodden Town since 2014.
“We are pleased to partner with Mandarin Oriental to bring the most exclusive resort and branded residences to the Cayman Islands,” Ryan Melkonian, managing partner of Melkonian Capital Management said at the announcement. “We are creating a very special destination that we expect will be among the best in the Caribbean.”
The resort will include 100 rooms, 89 residences, five restaurants and bars, and its own farm for growing farm-to-table fare. It will also feature a spa, fitness center, several outdoor swimming pools and tennis courts, as well as banqueting facilities and space for weddings and business events. Landscaped walking and cycling trails will be on site and a beach club will offer a variety of leisure and watersports activities.
More rooms and residences are in the works. The Cayman Islands’ biggest commercial real estate developer, Dart Real Estate, is continuing to build a hotel district that started with the opening of the Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, Dart’s first hotel and Kimpton’s first international property.
Dart has added the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman resort to its portfolio of properties in the Seven Mile Beach area. It also bought the Beach Suites resort, the Hyatt hotel, the Britannia golf course and the Royal Palms property, with plans to build a five-star hotel, likely a Four Seasons, there.
The developer plans to re-open Beach Suites as an unbranded “boutique hotel” before the end of the year, following a $1 million renovation.
Work is under way on two other luxury resorts – the five-star Grand Hyatt Grand Cayman Hotel & Residences being constructed on the Pageant Beach site as well as NCB Group’s boutique hotel at the old Treehouse restaurant site in George Town. The hotel will have a wellness focus.
Another wellness-focused venture is a beachfront “healing resort” on the site of the old Mariners Cove in Prospect, being undertaken by Kim and Ashleigh Lund.
The significant growth in the luxury travel sector being forecast for Cayman is supported by major infrastructure improvements, including roadway enhancements and the $55-million upgrade to the Owen Roberts International Airport, which is nearing its final stages.
There is also new airlift from carriers including Southwest Airlines and JetBlue, the latter of which will be adding more flights to Grand Cayman this fall. Also fueling greater increases in tourism are additional American Airlines flights out of Chicago, new capacity on Air Canada flights from Toronto and a new direct route to Denver via Cayman Airways.
“The airport is going to be a key element, ensuring there are flights coming in and proper flight distribution,” Marc Langevin, general manager of The Ritz-Carlton, told the Cayman Compass.
“Demand for the destination is amazing. We are booking now for 2019, for 2020. We are not concerned about competition. Every island has something different. We have room to be the luxury destination for the Caribbean.”
CELEBRATING … CAYMAN’S RESIDENTIAL RISE
Cayman’s residential real estate market is on the upswing.
The two hottest markets are Seven Mile Beach followed by South Sound, which is undergoing a myriad of developments such as Davenport Development’s three VELA phases, FIN condominiums, The Sanctuary, Cayman Crossing Phase III, TIDES and Shore Club.
On Seven Mile Beach, three new 10-story condominium projects are in the wings.
A grand entry is The WaterMark. The $177-million luxury condominium project is being undertaken by the developers of Stone Island and The WaterColours. The 54-unit complex will be linked by a new pedestrian bridge over West Bay Road to a three-story building featuring a restaurant, spa, fitness center and other facilities. The apartments will be built close to Public Beach between the Avalon and Harbour Heights condominium development.
The 10-story development features 12 swimming pools, including four rooftop pools. The ground level will be raised with parking underneath, similar to the setup at the neighboring Kimpton Seafire resort.
Aqua, a 10-story luxury condo complex being developed on Seven Mile Beach, features a multimillion-dollar home on every floor. Among its amenities is a private elevator, concierge service, floor-to-ceiling windows, expansive balconies, beachside infinity edge pool and gated basement parking
The Butler Group is introducing Seacrest, a 20-unit condominium project being built between Margaritaville and the Marriott Beach Resort. The three-bedroom condos feature glass walls and curved glass terraces to take advantage of the panoramic ocean views. The 10-story development also includes a gym, spa, swimming pool and manager’s office, as well as a rooftop terrace. The properties have already sold out.
A major residential development is taking shape at Camana Bay. Dart Real Estate and NCB Group are partnering to build the first residential properties for sale at the site. Camana Bay already has residential properties for rent, but not for purchase. Construction is set to begin in the first half of 2019.
The new development will be located south of Camana Bay’s Town Centre, and adjacent to Cayman International School, which will be expanded to double its capacity by 2020. The residences are expected to range from one-bedroom condominiums to four-bedroom townhomes.
“This project is another example of the Town Centre’s growth as it continues to cater to those who want to live and work in an amenity-rich community that provides connectivity to the world-class Seven Mile Beach,” said Jackie Doak, president of Dart Real Estate, in a media release.
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 Governors Harbour.
In North Side, developer Joseph Imparato is introducing a collection of beachfront residences, Rum Point Club Residences, along with Kembali Kai, five island-style boating homes located nearby.
Periwinkle is a new development in Grand Harbour, and Indigo Bay is being developed by Charlton Developments right across from Grand Harbour, featuring ocean-view townhouses. Canal-front homes are being developed at The Channels, 81 West in Prospect.
As of June 2018, 313 properties have been sold for $221 million, an average of $706,000 per property, according to the Cayman Islands Real Estate Brokers Association. This is an increase from the value of the average property sale of $660,000 in 2017.
Property in the Seven Mile Beach area has seen the biggest jump in value, due to limited inventory. The lack of land for redevelopment on Seven Mile Beach is driving demand for high-end property elsewhere on-island.
The uptick of interest in buying property in Cayman comes largely from the United States and Canada, but there is growing interest from Europe as well. The market is also seeing more interest from local residents and Caymanians, including young Caymanian first-time buyers.
RE/MAX Cayman Islands owner/broker Kim Lund sees a promising future, with sales activity and capital appreciation improving over the last five years.
“Prior to that time, for several years, the market had been weak, and there was little increase in property values and a large inventory of property for sale,” he says.
Lund notes major infrastructure improvements make Cayman a more desirable place to live and visit which, in turn, adds value and demand for real estate. An expanding and well-managed economy is also attracting investors.
“Real estate activity has been brisk over the last several years and development has not yet caught up to our current demand, so there is a shortage of property on the market, which is helping to spur on higher prices,” he says.
Lund notes in the cyclical market of real estate, Cayman is in an upward cycle. “How long it will last depends a lot on Cayman’s ability to continue its growth at sustainable levels, while not having any major shocks to slow this down in both our economy and the global economy, as a lot of our investment comes from overseas,” he says. “With all the exciting new projects and developments planned and under way, we should have some more good years still ahead.”
CELEBRATING … CAYMAN’S WORLD-CLASS AMENITIES
Grand Cayman is truly an exceptional place to live, work and play. The spectacular sunsets, idyllic beaches and world-famous waters are just the beginning.
Cayman’s strong economy and stable environment pave the way for world-class amenities such as dining, shopping, entertainment, sports, social activities, and watersports.
Adding to the mix is Grand Cayman’s cosmopolitan atmosphere that makes it a prime year-round playground, attracting visitors from around the globe. Indeed, tourism is now at an all-time high, with more than 2.1 million people arriving on these shores by air and sea in 2017.
Tourism numbers are expected to grow again this year, with the first six months of 2018 already shattering previous records. More than 1.3 million tourists arrived by plane and ship, a 20 percent jump over the same period last year. Significantly, the stay-over market saw a surge in arrivals in the first half of the year, with more than 250,000 visitors – a 16-percent increase in air arrivals over the same period last year.
“I am very pleased that tourism performance in the Cayman Islands is registering consistent growth and continues to outpace projections,” said Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell. “By applying the right marketing strategies, vision and spirit of collaboration to drive performance, the Cayman Islands tourism industry has maintained impressive, oftentimes, double-digit increases for a sustained period.”
While visitors are drawn by such top attractions as Stingray City, Rum Point and Seven Mile Beach, Cayman’s vibrant cultural scene is another plus with many festivals and events held throughout the year – including Pirates Week, the national festival of the Cayman Islands staged annually in November.
Cayman Carnival Batabano is another popular festival, a colorful celebration of carnival. Its street parade is an explosion of color, costumes, music, rhythm and dance. The event marked its 35th anniversary in 2018 and has grown from a one-day affair to a multi-event celebration spanning three weekends.
Major sporting events abound as well including the annual Flowers Sea Swim. An island tradition for 26 years, the event was recently named one of 10 notable destination swims by Swimming World magazine, an international publication that covers swimming, diving, water polo and other aquatic sports. The swim raises funds for charity each year, with the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre chosen as the recipient for 2018. This year’s swim attracted 800 competitors.
The Intertrust Cayman Islands Marathon is another international draw. Around 1,200 people participated in the event last year, with runners now gearing up for the annual race set for Dec. 2, 2018.
The Cayman Islands is also known for its vibrant and varied dining scene, hailed as the “Culinary Capital of the Caribbean.” The annual Cayman Cookout features world-famous chefs, wine experts and spirits blenders offering tastings, demonstrations, tours, and dinners.
Taste of Cayman is the island’s largest culinary event and one of the largest food festivals in the Caribbean. The one-day event features live cooking demonstrations, food and wine tasting booths and local entertainment.
A new festival, KAABOO, is being introduced in early 2019, expected to attract 11,000 people for a weekend of music, comedy, art and food. Dart and Virgin enterprises are co-sponsoring the event, which is expected to generate $14 million in economic spin-offs.
The festival will be the largest event of its nature in the history of the Cayman Islands. KAABOO’s chief brand officer Jason Felts said it is his goal to make Cayman the live music capital of the Caribbean.
It’s yet another world-class venture to add to the ever-expanding list of reasons to celebrate Cayman.