Cayman woos stay-overs

Minister for Tourism Charles Clifford told attendees at the opening of the Cayman Islands Tourism Exchange that public and private sector have been working to achieve the single goal of returning stay-over visitors to pre-Ivan levels.

‘In the past year a steady march forward has done much to achieve this, but a strong and sustained second year is required to turn this goal into a reality.’

Mr. Clifford was speaking at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman where international travel wholesalers, members of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, Department and Ministry of Tourism along with international media gathered for the opening of CITE, an annual event organised by the CITA.

Director of Tourism Pilar Bush gave an update on room inventory, noting that room stock on Grand Cayman is almost back to full strength.

The total pre-Ivan room stock figure for all three islands was 5,181.

A presentation from DoT shows that there are now 3,794 rooms on all three islands (as of 19 April last) – down 1,387 rooms on the pre-Ivan situation.

Room stock in Grand Cayman was impacted by the Hyatt, North Point Condos, Tarquynn Manor, Indies Suites, Seaview Hotel, Treasure Island Resort, Victoria House, Beachcomber Condominiums, Cayman Club, Turtle Beach and approximately 35 guest houses coming out of the rental pool.

Aside from properties that are now closed, Ms Bush explained that some properties have come out of the short term rental pool and others are being refurbished.

However, on a positive note, quite a bit of construction is going on at the moment, with 277 hotel rooms under construction, 648 rooms in condos/apts, and 61 rooms in guest houses (986 in total).

She also commented that some other condos may be entering the short term rental pool.

She noted that 2006 was a very good winter season.

Giving an overview of available airlift, Ms Bush outlined that in December 2003 there were 75 weekly flights and 10,209 weekly seats. In December 2005 there were 71 weekly flights and 9,105 weekly seats. Added to this now, is Spirit’s seven weekly flights and American Airlines’ one additional daily flight five days a week.

Mr. Clifford said with room inventory back on line, the DoT and the private sector are working to ensure that the Cayman Islands has attractive vacation specials in the market place, such as this year’s Summer Splash, and that they are advertised heavily using TV, print and the internet.

DoT, he said, will also work closely with Cayman Airways to ensure tactical offers are in the market place, with supporting advertising and promotion.

Mr. Clifford spoke about the importance of the expansion of the travel agent familiarisation programme. ‘The success of this programme is critical to all of our successes,’ he said.

The Minister also briefed attendees on the Go East initiative, which will spread tourism’s economic benefits through sustainable tourism and will provide education training. Speaking to the travel buyers attending, Mr. Clifford said that by supporting it they would have even more to offer guests when selling a Cayman Islands vacation package.

Training will be used to raise the quality of customer services throughout the tourism sector.

Touching on cruise tourism Minister Clifford said the new Royal Watler Cruise Terminal will open in June and will provide much needed extra capacity for cruise visitors.

He also told attendees about the major re-development in store for Owen Roberts International Airport, the first phase of which will focus on the total re-design and re-development of the terminal building.

He noted that the site preparations for an airport on Little Cayman will continue. ‘The development will be sited on what is currently Crown property located to the northeast of the existing airfield. It will include a 4,000-ft.-long by 1,000-ft.-wide runway, apron, terminal and fire rescue facilities.’

The Minister spoke about Pedro St. James and Boatswain’s Beach being on track for full re-openings this summer.

Other points of note include Special Management Areas being drafted into legislation for the North Sound in order to manage Stingray City and other primary marine attractions. The government is also to develop a dedicated unit to manage public transportation.

CITA President Karie Bergstrom gave an overview of the past year, with highlights including the opening of The Meridian and The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.

She also gave an overview of marketing and events and industry development.

Representing the Sister Islands Tourism Association, Chevala Burke outlined developments in Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, including nature tourism and sports tourism.