Jane van der Bol of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association took up her position as President of the Florida chapter of the Society of Incentive Travel Executives on 1 January. It is a position that dovetails very neatly with her day to day work in tourism and can benefit Cayman in general, she says.
Incentive travel brings group business to destinations, often with a much longer booking window than leisure business. The concept of rewarding clients or staff with trips of this kind after hitting designated targets can benefit morale greatly. The effects for hotels are similarly positive with medium-term planning impacted.
“Incentive travel was a large part of my professional background,” said the former travel agent.
“I believe that of all the Caribbean islands Cayman is placed best as an incentive travel destination. We have a high end delivery, the largest Ritz-Carlton in the Caribbean, the Marriott and the Westin both undergoing renovations so they are fresh.
“There are excellent limos, taxis, vans and infrastructure. That is so important for transit between experiences. We also have phenomenal venues which offer an unique experience. Even the onsite decor management teams like Celebrations can deliver excellent production, We can showcase events to rival anywhere else in the world.” She added that the culinary offering of the Cayman Islands was extremely high quality.
“When you go to other islands and experience their food it just cannot compare to Cayman. It is phenomenal here. Add to all this the sun, sand, sea, the environment and the beaches and we really do have the whole package in terms of what the incentive product is seeking.”
The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, said the executive director, does a very good job in bringing down agents and buyers to Cayman on familiarisation trips in order that they can return with a deeper knowledge of the islands and communicate that to their customers. However, the presidency of SITE enables engagement with professionals at a much higher level.
“I can talk to the owners, other destinations, venues, everyone about their experiences and learn how they better their product and how we can learn from that. I will be reaching out to our membership on a regular basis.
“There’s also the opportunity to make connections and place the Cayman Islands in a position we have never been before, in front of the entire membership,” said van der Bol.
Priorities for 2013
In a recent newsletter to the membership, the president outlined five priorities for 2013. First was to increase the membership base; this was in order to reach out more to buyers as Florida was traditionally a supplier-heavy destination. Secondly, informing the public about the benefits of this multi-billion dollar industry with a high overnight spend through statistics would be key. A third aspect is to focus on green initiatives which are prevalent in the Caribbean and Florida in order that companies can take opportunities to participate. Developing education and drawing on the experience of long-term members as well as SITE Global to develop a stronger voice collectively were also key.
“One thing I am focusing on is changing the chapter name from SITE Florida to SITE Florida and Caribbean. This is a lot of work but has a lot of value for our Caribbean members. There is a lot of incentive travel to the islands and by unifying in this way the countries and individual members can all come under the code of SITE.
“This includes the ethics and educating them about what is expected of the Caribbean in this market,” she added.
For the Cayman Islands, van der Bol noted that it was important for the destination and its tourism industry to become members of SITE.
“There is a lot of member to member business which is created. This is because buyers know that the members of the Society Incentive Travel Executives will deliver the product they are looking for so obviously will go with them first.
“I will reach out to the sector here [in Cayman]; Restaurants, hotels, attractions and more, to encourage them to become members to get this exposure.”
One big filip for Cayman is the fact that the SITE Global conference, which was held in China in 2012, will be in Orlando in December, 2013.
“I am in charge of education for the event,” revealed van der Bol.
“The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism has also agreed to host a post-conference tour of Cayman. This means that buyers worldwide can come and experience our product because they will already be on our doorstep. This is huge.
“From January onwards the Cayman Islands will be on the website and being promoted to all worldwide SITE members who can come to Orlando for the conference and then see what we have down here.”