‘Round one goes to Ivan but Cayman winning the fight’ reads the sub-heading of a Canadian travel article written following the recent Cayman Islands Tourism Exchange.
The Tourism Exchange, hosted by the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, is the only face-to-face forum held in Cayman, providing an excellent platform for wholesalers to learn about new products and developments, or to reacquaint themselves with the whole spectrum of tourism offerings on the three islands.
The CITE 2005 programme was revamped to reflect the changes in the Cayman Islands product – specifically Grand Cayman.
According to a Canadian Travel Press article by Greg Coates that appeared on the front page of the travel trade publication last week, ‘the beaches are fine, the diving is better than ever, and tourism officials are committed to getting the Cayman Islands back in the minds of travellers, despite what Hurricane Ivan tried to do to them last September’.
The article, headlined, ‘Cayman: Return to Paradise’ has graphics saying ‘Welcome to Hell’, with a caption explaining that Hell is one of Cayman’s top tourist attractions.
The piece of writing talks about the blow Ivan gave to Grand Cayman and its winter tourism season, but says, ‘a determined travel industry is back on its feet, and the island is slowly getting back to normal, as witnessed by delegates at the recent Cayman Islands Tourism Exchange in George Town’.
The article goes on to say that while only 40 per cent of hotels in Grand Cayman are open, many are close to reopening.
‘Another 20 per cent should be open by June, and tourism officials expect the island to be 100 per cent operational by 2006.’
The article goes on to quote Minister of Tourism McKeeva saying that the tourism industry is rebuilding infrastructure, reinvesting in business, retraining people and how the Cayman vacation experience is back and wonderful.
The article goes on to say that tree damage is very evident, but Governmental officials have vowed that this will be cleaned up and a tree planning programme will be put in place.
‘Other government initiatives include redeveloping the island’s craft market and re-landscaping and upgrading Owen Roberts International Airport,’ it reads.
The article also quotes Director of Tourism Pilar Bush as saying the visitor experience is most important and it will be ensured they enjoy their stay.
Despite the 10,000 cars lost as a result of the hurricane, car rentals are back to pre-Ivan inventory levels, it said.
The article continues that hotels are not only repairing damage but upgrading facilities and it mentions forthcoming hotel re-openings.
The travel article quotes President of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association Mark Bastis as saying that a great new product is coming on stream with higher levels of service.
The article goes on to say that cruise tourism is operating well, as is business in the Sister Islands.
Head of the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism in Canada, Earl Smith, is mentioned as saying the progress made in the last five months is amazing.
Cheryl Allan, General Manager for Canada said, ‘I’m fully confident that they will soon be back to pre-Ivan status – once again appealing to the discerning traveller. It’s going to be new and improved, bigger and better.’