Leader of Government Business and Minister for Tourism announced yesterday that the Royal Watler Cruise Terminal will open for business as soon as 5 May.
Mr. Bush also announced the re-opening of the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park to be on 30 April in his speech, which revolved around ‘good news’. He made the announcements at the Cayman Islands Tourism Exchange.
Mr. Bush spoke at the Courtyard Marriott pool area Thursday morning for the audience of international and top selling wholesalers such as Expedia and Travelocity (who he referred to as suppliers). The wholesalers are visiting for the CITE, (organised by the CITA) until Saturday. They arrived Wednesday and attended an evening reception at the Governor’s residence where Governor Bruce Dinwiddy and CITA President Mark Bastis welcomed them.
Touching briefly on Hurricane Ivan, Mr. Bush said it was an experience of a lifetime.
He announced room stock to be at 37 per cent, and said it is anticipated to reach pre-Ivan levels by 2006.
‘The quality of our vacation experience is back and our guests today are happier than they have ever been,’ he said.
Mr. Bush said the Boatswain Beach development, at the old Turtle Farm site, will see Phase I opening in May with the remainder of the development opening in January 2006. He pointed out that Phase I includes the re-housing of the existing Turtle Farm, and Phase II will see the opening of a number of exciting initiatives, including a 1.3 million gallon saltwater snorkel lagoon, a predator tank, an educational facility focusing on the conservation of sea turtles and much more.
Tourism, he said, is responsible for 50 per cent of the gross domestic product, 27 per cent of employment and more than CI$30 million contributed directly, each year to Government and statutory authorities.
Mr. Bush pointed out that two months and one week after the passage of Hurricane Ivan, the Cayman Islands welcomed cruise ship passengers back to these shores, and two months and three weeks after the passage of Hurricane Ivan, stay-over visitors were welcomed back.
He said he personally encouraged each and every wholesaler to seek out new business opportunities while here, and to consider smaller businesses they may not have met with before.
‘The smaller properties may not represent volume, but they do represent quality and they do represent excellent vacation,’ he said.
He told the visitors that infrastructure is being re-built, businesses are being re-invested in and people are being re-trained.
‘As you tour the island you will see this sense of commitment, and of determination, mirrored throughout the community – and now we are looking to you, our partners, to step up to the plate and to do your part in promoting, selling and championing the Cayman Islands,’ he said.
Mr. Bush praised the Department of Tourism, CITA, and Chamber of Commerce for spearheading clean-up drives along major tourism routes.
He pointed out that the Sister Islands District Administration and Sister Islands Tourism Association worked together closely to keep their tourism product vibrant.
Mr. Bush spoke about summer packages for 2005 designed to entice families to Cayman. He also mentioned the forthcoming Mandarin Oriental, to be built in East End. He also said The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman will be opening its doors to guests in January 2006.
Mr. Bush acknowledged the CITA Shipwreck City project, saying that $300,000 of government funds have already been committed to this project. He said the CITA was close to finalising the last details on the project.
He also touched on road improvements for tourists and residents.
‘The current Government is in the process of gazetting the Esterley Tibbetts Highway extension, which will continue the easy flow of traffic running parallel with West Bay Road.’
Mr. Bush announced that the FCCA has confirmed it will provide a grant for the environmental monitoring of Stingray City and for other management areas in the North Sound.
With regard to customer service, Mr. Bush said that from May through November the DoT and the private sector will be working closely to intensify the training and education geared towards the frontline of the tourism industry (both in Government and in private sector).
Mr. Bush praised Cayman Airways and the support of Cayman’s airline partners.
He concluded, ‘Ivan did make a lasting impression on the Cayman Islands; but, it is now firmly behind us, and has taken a place in our history. Join us in looking forward to a bright future and work with us while we re-build our country.’