New president for CITA

Watersports committee representative Stephen Broadbelt emerged as the new resident of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association following its AGM last week.

The new board of directors elected Mr. Broadbelt.

Outgoing President Karie Bergstrom, after serving for three years, now serves as Immediate Past President of the private sector association.

Mr. Broadbelt commented, ‘I look forward to working with all the sectors in the tourism industry to build on what Karie and the Board have done and to spearhead new initiatives in order to drive down the costs of doing business and increase new traffic to tourism businesses.’

The new board, voted in on Thursday, now consists of:

Allied: Harry Lalli – Front Door Cayman; Emma Graham-Taylor – Image Group;

Condos/Villas: Rory Mohammed – Lacovia Condominiums; Max Hillier – Grandview Condos;

Hotels: Dan Szydlowski – Westin Casuarina Resort and Spa; Walter Regidor – Marriott Beach Resort;

Restaurants: Mike Flowers – Dairy Queen; Clifford Woods – Tropical Trader Co. Ltd;

Transport: John Wrightington – Cayman Airways; Rollin Jackson – Tropicana Tours;

Watersports: Stephen Broadbelt – Ocean Frontiers; Steve Surrey – Diver’s Down.

Sister Islands – Gladys Howard of Pirates Point.

Executive Director Trina Christian outlined the proposal to create a position within the Board to specifically represent cruise tourism, which would give a better balance to CITA, she said.

Following the meeting, the vote to add a Cruise Sector representative to the board was unanimously approved. A director will be appointed in the near future.

In her outgoing reflection, Ms Bergstrom said, ‘Our recovery from Ivan is done and I am pleased to say that today. Now we need to grow the industry, make it world class. This is the challenge for our new president and our board of directors.’

Ms Bergstrom said that back in July 2005 when she took over as president they were not sure CITA would survive recovery after Ivan and they were even unsure of the recovery of the industry as a whole. But quoting the old VirginiaSlims Cigarette ad campaign, she stated, ‘We’ve come a long way baby.’

She said she was pleased to hand over a much different organisation to the incoming president.

Looking at the state of the industry, Ms Bergstrom said while the combined occupancy (hotels and condos and villas) for 2007 was just over 50 per cent and showed an increase over previous years, she said it needs to be at 75 per cent to allow for sustainability (at current costs).

In 2008 going forward pluses for the industry include direct airlift from JFK, growing air arrivals and the launch of the PRIDE customer service programme.

As the US faces an economic downturn, the industry needs to be creative to attract visitors, she noted. But, she added that huge opportunities exist based on the weakened US dollar because Americans are not looking to European trips, but to the Caribbean where their dollar value hasn’t changed.

Challenges for the industry include seats and pricing for airlift. But Ms Bergstrom praised Cayman Airways for the way they have managed their seat inventory in the past year, and also for the introduction of web check-in. ‘Web check-in is probably the greatest thing Cayman Airways has done for its customers,’ she said, urging the accommodations sector to make their customers aware of it in order to lessen their queuing time at the airport.

Other challenges include keeping the balance between stay-over and cruise tourism and getting a better overall experience for cruise visitors.

Some solutions needed are use of PRIDE training, getting regular, direct air service from other areas in the Northeast US, leveraging the new agreement with CUC for cost savings, getting a collective group together for better insurance rates and working on immigration issues.

Some strategies for CITA for 2008/2009 include: utilising the newly released membership benefits card to motivate new members, redevelop the CITA website to better serve as a marketing tool and industry networking tool; and to get the USS Kittiwake sunk.

CITA treasurer Cliff Woods reported that CITA’s financial position strengthened during the year thanks to better expense management.

Executive Director Trina Christian highlighted the contribution of Key to Cayman to CITA [CI$58,000 most recently] and encouraged members to recognise it as a driving force for CITA and the official tourism publication that it supports.