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Anthony Bourdain’s suicide was announced just a day after I’d interviewed Tourism Minister and Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell during Caribbean Week NYC. “We are deeply saddened by the news of Anthony Bourdain’s passing,” said a Department of Tourism statement. “The Cayman Islands will remember him most fondly and with much love.”

Bourdain returned the love when he staged the celebrity-chef Cayman Cookout every year, and he was not alone in his feelings about this autonomous British Overseas Territory. Although 2017 was a great year, with arrivals up eight percent, the Cayman Islands are on track to surpass it with first-quarter arrivals up 20 percent. In 2017 there were 418,000 stayover arrivals, and for 2018 Kirkconnell expects stayovers to grow 10-12 percent. “We have a return rate of about 50 percent because we deliver on expectations,” he explained. “Our success is based upon a lot of different strengths,” added Minister Kirkconnell. “And people like success stories.”

Tourism Minister and Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell.

The number of rooms on Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman has risen about 20 percent over the past two years—additions include Kimpton Seafire Resort & Spa and Margaritaville Beach Resort—and renovation projects have rejuvenated older properties such as the Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort. Presently the archipelago has 6,100 rooms, including condos and other villa- and apartment-style accommodations, and there’s more to come. “Over the next three years we’ll see another 20 percent growth in rooms, including a Four Seasons on Seven Mile Beach,” said Kirkconnell. “We’re improving infrastructure on the east end so we can move more tourism product to that side, and we also hope to encourage more on Cayman Brac.” He added, “Look for an upcoming announcement about a development on the south coast.”

Meanwhile, Grand Cayman is replacing its airport, which has an annual capacity of 500,000 passengers, with a new airport that can accommodate 2,500,000 per year. “If you make it easy, somebody will buy it,” said Kirkconnell, “so we try to make it easy.”

Another reason for the Cayman Islands’ success, he says, is “the comfort we give travel agents…If you’re an agent looking to book someone, you know they’ll have the experience you promised. After that, your next booking for this client will be easier, and that’s positive for both your business and for the client. Obviously, what we’re doing is working.”

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