CITE 2009: Upping the tourism ante

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Condo vacations over hotels

With consumer confidence at an all time low and people cutting back on travel, the Deputy Director of the Department of Tourism Sharon Banfield’s presentation was a timely update as to how her department is working in tandem with the Cayman Islands Tourism Association and other local partners to up the tourism ante here in Cayman. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull reports.

The Cayman Islands Tourism Exchange is an important forum in which the Cayman Islands can showcase its tourism product to visiting journalists, wholesalers and other partners via a collection of meetings and outings. At the opening address at this year’s event, Sharon Banfield outlined ways in which the Department of Tourism is tackling the trickle down effects from this global economic downturn.

Defining consumer confidence “at an all-time low” as far as tourism was concerned, Banfield said that this in turn caused a ripple effect felt by all sectors of the travel and tourism industry here in Cayman.

“Booking windows are now being cut from 30 days down to, in some cases, just seven days. This causes an unpredictable environment in which to operate,” she confirmed.
Yet amid all the doom and gloom Banfield did have some upbeat news.
“There are signs that the slowdown is itself slowing down. Vacation is poised to be one of the first categories of consumer spending to rebound and the really good news is that the Cayman Islands is in the top ten for ‘top-of-mind’ warm weather destinations.,” she said.

Marketing highlights
Cayman Summer Splash is an initiative drawing families to Cayman during the traditionally slow summer months. With the lure of children traveling free on Cayman Airways, as well as free accommodation, meals and entrance in certain hotels, restaurants and attractions, consumers who book package deals (i.e. air and accommodation together) may well get an excellent deal from 1 June until 7 September this year.

Skate Cayman is the first ever world class Skate camp to take place in Cayman and is attracting a slew of international skateboarding stars, such as Bucky Lasek and Shaun White. The camp is open to residents and visitors alike and runs throughout the summer.

Dive 365 is the result of a partnership between the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, the Department of Tourism and the Department of the Environment and proposes to expand the number of dive sites currently available for divers from 270 to 365, i.e. one for every day of the year.

“This initiative is important if Cayman is to hold on to its world leadership role within the dive industry,” Banfield said.

In particular, eight new dive sites are slated for Cayman Brac, and this will, in turn, permit some popular dive sites to be retired for rejuvenation and environmental rebirth.
Cayman Jazz Fest is scheduled to take place at the end of the year from 3 to 5 December and always attracts a fine follow8ng of jazz enthusiasts from overseas as well as locally.
Pushing the already vibrant and innovative culinary scene in Cayman, the Cayman Cookout, hailed as the Caribbean’s Premier Epicurean event, is on track for 15 to 18 January next year. Banfield says that attendees should look to the same high quality of participation as was the case this year, with well known celebrity chef Eric Ripert and food writer/presenter Anthony Bourdain taking centre stage at this year’s event.

Product highlights
After last year’s devastating Hurricane Paloma, Cayman Brac is slowly getting back on track as far as its tourism product is concerned. The much anticipated opening of the brand new 33-roomed Alexander Hotel has still not taken place at the time of writing, yet Banfield stated that a total of eight licensed properties were open with a total of 20 rooms. Most attractions, trails, parks and caves were open for business as beaches, car rental companies, supermarkets and restaurants.

Banfield highlighted the success of the PRIDE (personal responsibility in delivering excellence) initiative, a national tourism customer service training programme, which over 1500 participants had completed. Working closely with the airlines, accommodations and attractions sectors the next sector to be targeted for a PRIDE transformation will, according to Banfield, be the public transportation sector.

A huge focus for the Department of Tourism has been the CEPTS (Cayman Islands Environmental Project for the Tourism Sector) programmme, promoting sustainable tourism in Cayman via environmental best practices. This has been a public private sector partnership and five properties across the islands have been Green Globe 21 benchmarked in May of this year.
The five properties are Compass Point, Cobalt Coast and The Botanic Park on Grand Cayman and The Southern Cross Club and Little Cayman Beach Resort on Little Cayman.

Next month learn about the specific environmental best practices of each property and hear about the Owen Roberts International Airport development as well as the Cruise Conversion programme.



Cayman Islands Tourism Association’s Executive Director, Trina Christian and the DoT’s Deputy Director, Sharon Banfield