New CITA executive director ready for action

Jane van der Bol is the new executive director of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association and she says she is ready to work closely with private and public sector bodies for the betterment of tourism.  

The incentive travel segment and more involvement with major island projects are two of the association’s things to tackle during 2012, said van der Bol. 

“Cayman has the service, product and infrastructure to be able to be the incentive destination of the Caribbean but we do not have the business. I am president-elect of the Society of Incentive Travel Executives Florida chapter and Joanne Brown (Celebrations) is also a member. But I believe every hotel and restaurant should have a member of the association too. 

“Incentive travel is all about return on investment – not necessarily all financial, but loyalty. Companies bring people who expect the best; they will rent out whole floors, even whole hotels sometimes, because they like exclusivity. And they will spend the money,” said the new executive director. 

One of the issues in Cayman underperforming in the incentives market is that the overall package here including air travel can be too expensive. 

“People do not want cheap residence but if the entire package is felt to be good value then the market could do well here. 

“We need to step up to the plate and present as a country.”
van der Bol said that she would be discussing the idea with Cayman Airways and the Department of Tourism. 

Staff retreat  

The new director has been in hospitality and tourism since 1979, with stints at attractions, resorts, as a travel agent, convention travel and incentive travel. She explained that one thing that the tourism association was going to do was hold a retreat following Taste of Cayman in late January. 

There, the staff will look at 2012, plan out the timetable and assign event management for CITA’s year so that they can hit the rest of 2012 with an organised view of where they are headed. 

“One thing I want is a closer working relationship with other tourism bodies including the Department of Tourism, the Department of Environment – who are involved in the marine angle, which is so important to our diving and snorkelling – and the Chamber of Commerce. 

“The Cayman Islands Tourism Association needs to be involved in all these new exciting projects that are being talked about at the moment. For example, Cayman Enterprise City.  

“People will be bringing business to the country so there is an obvious need to also provide enjoyment, events, activities and the safety. The Shetty hospital, too, will see people coming to live in Cayman.” 

Also on the table is a closer look at how downtown George Town could be revitalised, something that may be achieved regardless of any discussions about cruise berthing projects. 

“We can lobby with the strength of our membership, for example retailers, for things like more retail, wider sidewalks, more landscaping for a more pleasant look and feel and even a facelift of some buildings. 

“From attending meetings I know that our retail members are quite open to revitalising the town even down to participating in the cost, although that has not been discussed as yet,” she noted. 

Cruise business is integral to tourism but van der Bol pointed out that neither the government or China Harbour Engineering Company could discuss details with the association until an agreement was signed, which may be in March 2012. 

Wider knowledge  

Widening out the knowledge of the tourism sector can also be achieved in the interim and van der Bol and CITA have a plan to improve education. 

“We are coming up with a programme mostly for concierges to run alongside the PRIDE scheme and others. Everyone should receive training so we know the delivery of information is consistent and accurate. 

“We will be hosting workshops and focusing on that. Plans will be drawn up and it is an area in which we would like to improve.” 

van der Bol praised the Department of Tourism’s travelling Caymankind tourism updates, which has assisted in raising awareness of what the tourism side of government is doing day to day. 

“This has been great. It’s very good for the public to know where their marketing dollars are going. It’s also very important for Cayman Islands Tourism Association members to attend for the same reasons. 

“The Caymankind branding is bang on the mark with what the world is looking for: togetherness, family time. It is such a busy world but Cayman can deliver [that relaxing escape experience].” 

The executive director of the association is responsible for making sure the association is organised, driving tourism to the destination and therefore the members of CITA, managing staff, reviewing policies and procedures and working with the Department of Tourism in order to bring tourism to the destination.