Tourism champions celebrated at Stingray awards

A special Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Mrs. Suzy Soto while a Tourism Excellence Award went to Ms. Marie Ebanks at the 2nd annual Cayman Stingray Tourism Awards Saturday night.

The Lifetime Achievement award was for a lifetime’s contribution to tourism from Mrs. Suzy Soto who ran the original Tortuga Club in East End with her family and later The Cracked Conch restaurant. The Tourism Excellence Award is based on exceptional customer service.

These awards were presented alongside 11 other awards for the different sectors of the tourism industry at a celebratory dinner and ceremony followed by dancing at the Marriott Beach Resort.

Recipients were:

Transportation Employee of the Year – Mr. Bill Jackson of Webster’s Tours;

Watersports Employee of the Year – Mr. Shelle McGrath of Red Sail Sports;

Restaurant Employee of the Year – Ms. Taitlin Clarke of the Marriott Hotel;

Accommodation Employee of the Year – Arvella Bodden of the Marriott Hotel;

Transportation Manager of the Year – Richard Blake, Vice President Sales & Marketing Cayman Airways;

Watersports Manager of the Year – Walter Findlay of Red Sail Sports;

Restaurant Manager of the Year – Darren Zucker of Breezes by the Bay;

Accommodation Manager of the Year – Effie Mitchell of Casa Caribe;

Long Service Award – Rosita Bennett aka ‘Mushy’ of Lacovia, and Ms. Marie Ebanks who began working at the Seaview Hotel 48 years ago;

Special Contribution Award – Ms. Judith General of the Hyatt Hotel.

The event was organised by the Cayman Islands Tourism Association’s Training, Education and Scholarship Committee.

In her speech, President of the CITA Karie Bergstrom shared her message about the Cayman Islands coming up with a value proposition. She stated that a value proposition defines how a tourism destination positions itself in the market and delivers value to customers in such a way that it sets it apart from others.

‘My challenge to all of us in the public and private sector is that we need to establish a value proposition for the entire country.’

She spoke about how value can be added to visitors’ vacations by adding in a ‘wow’ factor through exceptional customer service.

She mentioned how Long Service and Tourism Excellence Award Recipient Marie Ebanks had put fresh flowers in guest rooms every day, winning over a guest who had been coming here for 18 years and had never had anyone do that before.

Ms. Bergstrom said it is the little things that can sway customers into returning. ‘We all have to change to elevate the Cayman Islands to the way we want it to be,’ she said, adding that we need to ask visitors how many times they will refer their family and friends to the Cayman Islands.

Voicing another idea, Ms. Bergstrom said when visitors first arrive a system could be set up whereby the taxi that collects them from the airport calls ahead to the front desk of the hotel where they will stay to alert staff of the arrival. The bell man or receptionist can wait outside to greet the customers by name as they arrive.

She emphasised the need to change the mindset and the way we do things and the need to build relationships with customers and between the public and the private sector.

‘We need to create new ideas and to find the ‘wow’ factor to build strong relationships with visitors,’ she said.

A wonderful meal was presented by members of the Cayman Islands Culinary Society while later in the evening dancing was hot to trot with the help of local band Footloose, whose lively mix of tunes really got the crowd moving.

Another special tourism award had been made to tourism pioneer Suzy Soto at the Taste of Cayman opening dinner in July, in recognition of her dedication to tourism in the Cayman Islands over the years.