Everybody wants to see some progress on many different areas, but what is a must do in the short term? This is the question that the Executive Director of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association posed to the 2011/12 Board of Directors back in May. The CITA has maintained a clear focus on the elements and issues that are critical for sustainable tourism, all of which have been presented in the press and to government each April at the time of CITA’s Annual General Meeting. To further challenge action in the next 12 months, the following areas were determined as top priorities to tackle:
Airlift: CITA has identified Dallas as the next key market to obtain direct air service to and from the Cayman Islands. CITA will work directly with the Cayman Islands Government to achieve this and support the viability once established. Given the fact that eighty per cent of the visitors to Cayman come from the US, this is a logical next step. Medium to long term goals include exploring other markets that will provide new business to the Cayman Islands such as South America. Cruise tourism: CITA has identified cruise infrastructure as a critical success factor for the industry. As a short-term priority, CITA would like to see a contract for the Cruise Port Agreement prior to the 2011 FCCA conference, one that will bring forth a suitable development solution for this segment of our industry. Members of this sector are seeking answers to a long overdue issue and CITA will continue to prod.
Safety and visitor experience: CITA members from all sectors support the reduction of the speed limit on West Bay Road from 45mph to 30mph from the Wharf to Tiki Beach. Considering the density of the population of visitors on this strip, it is our responsibility to provide as safe an environment as possible. Another aspect that CITA sees as a top priority in conjunction with this is the implementation of cross walks.
Transportation: For a sophisticated destination like the Cayman Islands, there is still some need for fine tuning. One of the areas identified as a short term solution to meet the needs of guests to the Cayman Islands is the implementation of taxi meters which CITA feels will improve the guest experienceTourism Planning: ‘You’ll never arrive to your destination if you don’t know where you’re going.’ This is true for tourism in the Cayman Islands, which is why the CITA has taken on the task to revisit and update the National Tourism Management Policy (NTMP is the framework for the overall master development plan for tourism) Policing our tourism destination: CITA continues to pursue the implementation of a police strategy that takes into consideration the needs of the tourism industry and visitors to the Island. Given the fact that one of the top selling points for the Cayman Islands is safety compared to other islands, Cayman cannot afford to let this slip. Prevention is key and CITA will work with the RCIP to fulfil this goal.
Roomstock: CITA has identified great opportunity to better utilize the existing roomstock by increase the occupancy of the condo/villa market. To do this CITA has partnered with CayDirect to increase participation from condos and villas in new online booking engine: www.CayDirect.com. By partnering with the Department of Tourism to drive traffic to this new channel CITA hopes to increase bookings to this segment of our room stock. CITA is also very supportive of the redevelopment of the old Courtyard property which will eliminate a derelict property and rejuvenate the product whilst providing additional roomstock that has been out of the market for the last two years.
Solid waste management improvements and recycling: CITA is pleased with the plans in place through Dart’s FORCayman Alliance agreement and will actively support the implementation of recycling efforts. As an industry, tourism businesses are anxious to be able to engage in the recycling process and continually receive feedback and requests from guests about this. Given the demographic of visitors who chose to visit the Cayman Islands, there is a level of expectation from the Cayman Islands to be as environmentally conscious as possible. The current standard of Cayman’s waste management is not acceptable. Immigration and creating an environment for economic growth: CITA will continue to lobby for the rollover policy to be revised in order to protect our economy and keep those employees who are committed to the Cayman Islands community and tourism product. CITA will continue to engage with immigration officials to strike the balance between an immigration system that promotes ease of doing business while serving the needs of the country. Along this same line, CITA commits to ongoing efforts to train Caymanians in the tourism industry and promote choosing a career in the tourism industry and promote choosing a career in tourism which will contribute to a sustainable work force.
In addition to the short-term initiatives, there is still a general list of improvements and/or developments that CITA stands for. With over 200 member businesses and a dynamic and enthusiastic board of directors, CITA is stronger than ever. CITA representatives are poised to tackle the challenges that lay in the path of getting Cayman’s tourism industry up-to-speed and to continue to compete with other jurisdictions in the Caribbean region in partnership with all stakeholders.
Trina Savage-Christian, executive director, Cayman Islands Tourism Association