Ritz opens doors
The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman – which finally opened its doors for business yesterday after an official ribbon cutting ceremony – cements the country’s position as the undisputed leading luxury destination in the Caribbean.
This was the sentiment from both the Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts and Minister for Tourism Charles Clifford at the opening ceremony of the luxury resort Thursday morning.
Minister Clifford said that the resort opens as the crown jewel in Cayman Islands tourism.
Describing the day as a milestone in the modern history of the Cayman Islands, Mr. Tibbetts acknowledged the Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush’s ‘vital role’ in the US$500 million resort’s development.
Mr. Tibbetts acknowledged that the resort will be the second largest employer in the Cayman Islands behind Government. It has already contributed $59 million in direct Government revenues, he said.
With 199 Caymanians, out of 800, working at the resort, no other single tourist accommodation has ever employed that many Caymanians, he said.
‘It is a place where young Caymanians can find opportunity as leaders in a new era of our tourism industry,’ he said.
Minister Clifford pointed out that with the eyes of the world on the Cayman Islands because of the opening, the country would receive tens of millions of dollars of media coverage in the United States.
He said it was the responsibility as partners in the public and the private sector to exceed guests’ high expectations.
Vice President and General Manger Jean Cohen said that developer Michael Ryan’s vision could not have been brought to fruition without former Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush.
Mr. Bush praised Mr. Ryan, along with Windsor Development Corporation, the local real estate company involved in the project, for initially paying out over $500,000 in pension payments to Holiday Inn employees on acquiring the property.
Mr. Bush said that balanced development with a focus on the high end tourist, coupled with a climate that encourages good foreign investment, is the best way for the people of Cayman to maintain and improve their lifestyle and high standards of living, with the smallest impact on natural and man made infrastructure.
‘The Cayman Islands will reap the largest possible gain from the smallest number of tourists, and the type of resort we are opening today will allow that to happen giving us that balance that we want.’
Mr. Bush projected that by the time Mr. Ryan’s vision is complete, the impact will top US$1 billion and the Cayman Islands will continue to benefit year after year from this project.
Ms Cohen had learned three phrases in her two and a half years here: ‘God willing’; ‘it’s on a container’, and ‘soon come’. ‘That soon come is finally here,’ she said.
Ms Cohen told those at the opening ceremony that she wanted the hotel to be ‘home from home’ for locals and residents. She said there is a saying at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman ‘elegance without warmth is arrogance’. A warm Caymanian hospitality would greet guests at the hotel.
‘The ladies and gentlemen of the Cayman Islands are our most important guests,’ she said. ‘Without you we wouldn’t be here’.
This would be a world class resort with a distinctly Caymanian sense of place. The hotel boasts art works from local artists such as Bendel Hydes and Al Ebanks, she explained. The islands’ seafaring heritage is played out in the names of the meeting rooms, which are named after the Cayman Islands’ majestic schooners. Caymanian musicians are employed. The Ambassadors of the Environment programme would teach children about the wonders of the underwater world and local children would be participating in this through the schools.
Elderly Caymanian storytellers will tell tales of days at sea while thatch, coconut-candy and heavy-cake making are all part of the focus on Caymanian culture and heritage at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.
Owner and developer Michael Ryan said, ‘It is fitting today that this event is happening in the midst of the Christmas season, a time when people put away any cynicism and doubt and believe that dreams really can come true’.
It was the sweat and toil of thousands of people that brought this dream to life, he said.
With commitment, dedication and unerring willingness to do what is necessary, any star can be reached, he said.
He singled out two Caymanians who have shown him the true spirit of hospitality: Dale Crighton and Gene Thompson.
New Governor Stuart Jack said that he and his wife had been given a huge outpouring of hospitality in being welcomed to their new home, and so he was welcoming the people to their home – The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.
The community would be reaping the benefits of such a world class brand for decades to come, he said.