Cayman’s tourism sector plans ahead

Research for and development of the Cayman Islands’ tourism marketing strategies for 2008-09 took place at the Department of Tourism’s week-long global marketing summit in New York, which finished Friday, 8 February.

These annual meetings, convened by Minister of Tourism Charles Clifford, Chief Officer at the Ministry of Tourism Gloria McField-Nixon and Director of Tourism Pilar Bush, bring together the Ministry of Tourism, DoT (GCM, USA, UK), Cayman Airways, Cayman’s financial services, and DoT’s international marketing agencies from the United States, Europe and Canada.

The meetings were conducted to inform and develop DoT’s marketing strategies for 2008-09, especially in light of the rapidly changing US economy, said a press release.

‘Part of a larger planning process, the various entities working for Cayman’s tourist sector assembles in New York and Cayman several times a year. To prepare and best make informed decisions, extensive and calculated research is conducted, and tourism and economics experts are consulted,’ the release noted.

Karie Bergstrom, President of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, the private sector member based organisation, said that the CITA is working collaboratively with the Department of Tourism and the Ministry to develop programmes that they can push to market quickly to stave off any potential decline in summer business due to the current economic and political climate in the US.

‘This is imperative as our industry relies on the United States to produce approximately 80 per cent of our visitor arrivals.

She also said that the CITA understands that some very important information was presented at the recent marketing summit in New York but CITA was not in attendance.

‘However, we understand that the Ministry and the DoT are planning on bringing the same presenters to the island to share this information with us in greater detail.’

Minister Clifford said, ‘The CITA is sometimes, although not always, represented at our global marketing meetings (tourism summit)’.

He noted, however, that the New York meetings will continue for two days this week in Grand Cayman when plans and execution strategies will be cemented in conjunction with the private sector as represented by CITA and SITA.

This year’s meetings at the summit in New York welcomed several high calibre speakers, said the press release. On the opening day, the group was addressed by NYU’s Tisch Center Dean Dr. Leila Rach and SVP of American Express Ms Cara David. Dr. Rach discussed the state of the US economy and its projected impact on global and regional tourism. She focused heavily on who the recession would affect most and how to prepare for these changes in consumer spending. Ms David provided additional insight to consumer trends by sharing findings from research conducted by American Express on affluence in America from 2006-07, reporting on how the market is leaning and forecasts for 2008. This information facilitates a broader understanding of the market share, therefore allowing DoT and its agencies to further make informed decisions on how to define its consumer target and how to develop appropriate strategy to best reach this target, said the release.

The audience had a chance to work closely with executive representatives from Cayman Airways and Cayman’s Financial Services. Throughout the summit, CAL Chairman Angelyn Hernandez and VP Commercial John Wrightington were actively involved in discussion and workshops. Mr. Wrightington presented CAL’s business outlook to the group, explaining some of the successes and challenges the airline has faced this past year. Additionally, Cayman’s Portfolio of Finance Director Ted Bravakis presented its communications and public affairs strategy for CI’s financial services industry. This information allowed for a better understanding amongst the group of regulations and information sharing.

‘We are thrilled with the quality of guests who were able to join our global marketing meetings this year,’ said Minister Clifford in the press release. ‘We are honoured to have Cayman Airways and the financial services represented at such a high level. Marketing the national airline and understanding our financial sector are integral components to the destination’s tourism success. Furthermore, the value of insight offered by Dr. Rach and her experience created a clear path for where Cayman’s marketing plans need to be heading.’

‘The information disclosed by Ms David is invaluable,’ added Minister Clifford. ‘Due to Cayman’s existing positive relationship with American Express, we were allowed access to their extensive and comprehensive research which falls directly in line with who we’re seeking to target as visitors to our destination. With the current state of the US economy and political climate in flux, the timeliness and relevance of these meetings proved to be ideal.’

Outcomes and key learnings from these meetings include preparedness for US economic recession and global solutions, therefore strengthening Cayman’s resilience to the market. The Ministry and Department of Tourism, along with its international agencies plan to meet again in May 2008.