For the past several years Tourism in the Cayman Islands has been like the Little Engine that Could.
It’s been chugging along trying to make it to the top of the hill, never quite reaching the pinnacle.
The newest figures that are in show the tourism engine has gained speed and is chugging along quite nicely.
New stats show that tourist air arrival figures for April 2006 have surpassed the corresponding month for the post 11 September, 2001, period of 2002 and 2003.
Figures just released from the Department of Tourism show that 28,403 visitors arrived by air to the Cayman Islands last month.
That beats the figures of 26,768 arrivals for 2002 and 27,807 for 2003. In April a year ago only 15,423 air arrivals were recorded.
It’s not fair to say tourism was an after-thought before 11 September, 2001, but it wasn’t an industry that needed as much attention paid to the detail that it does today.
On that date the entire world turned upside down when terrorists used airplanes as weapons of mass destruction to take out the Twin Towers in New York and part of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. A fourth plane crashed and burned in a Pennsylvania field when savvy travellers realized what the terrorists had planned with that aircraft.
Suddenly everyone was afraid to fly.
That fear took its toll on the Cayman Islands, which depends heavily on foreign visitors to keep the tourism industry coffers filled.
Those responsible for the industry kicked into high gear in an effort to prove to the world that while chaos seemed to be everywhere, all was quiet, calm and safe in the Cayman Islands.
And they were doing a good job.
Then came along Hurricane Ivan exactly three years later. This disaster, though, was Cayman’s alone.
Folks still wanted to come see us, but we couldn’t let them in.
The massive hurricane damaged more than 90 per cent of the island and took with it many of our hotels and attractions.
But once again tourism leaders knew what had to be done and set about to do it.
Those in the Ministry and Tourism Department are to be given kudos for their hard work on this country’s behalf.
But they didn’t do it alone.
Everyone in the service industry who made a positive impact on our visitors in the past five years is also to be congratulated; as is every man, woman and child who made some tourist’s stay pleasurable and memorable for all the right reasons.
This country has made great strides to overcome the United States tragedy in 2001 and our own disaster in 2004.
The Tourism product is getting better and better every day.
We have much to be proud of and much to show off to the rest of the world.
Congratulations again to those who keep the tourism wheel spinning.