Busy year ahead for CITA Board

There’s going to be plenty to keep the Cayman Islands Tourism Association’s new President Stephen Broadbelt and board members and staff busy over the upcoming year.

Development of a booking engine for condos, looking at ways to drive costs down for member businesses, providing additional benefits and finding way to drive business to members are all top of the agenda for the CITA under its new President Stephen Broadbelt.

One of the projects that CITA is fully committed to and working with the Department of Tourism and the Ministry of Tourism on is to develop a strategy and business plan on the Strategic Selling Unit, which is essentially, in its first phase, a web-based booking engine for condos, villas and small hotel properties. The aim would be to open up room stock and provide a mechanism for people to book to stay at these tourist accommodations.

‘Traditionally condos and villas do not work with wholesalers,’ explained Mr. Broadbelt. ‘They don’t like paying those big commissions. They are not listed with Expedia, they are not listed with Travelocity and they probably won’t at this time.

‘So this is an alternative, a customised low cost solution to drive business to these condos and villas in this, phase one, of this project,’ said Mr. Broadbelt.

Other services are planned to be added later including hotels and the ability to book flights and packages at a lower cost.

It is planned to launch the first phase of the project this September. ‘We’re excited about it. It’s potentially one of the best things that has happened to the condo and villa market in a while,’ he said.

Another CITA priority for the next year is to work with the condo and villa sector to bring all the condo rooms that were put into long term rental following Hurricane Ivan back into short term tourist rentals.

‘The importance of this is to maintain the level of airline service to the island and possibly increase it where viable,’ said Mr. Broadbelt. ‘The airlines look at room stock. If they don’t’ have the room stock they are not going to add new flights or seats.’

The CITA is also concentrating on keeping on top of airline issues to ensure there is airlift coming into the island. ‘The whole airlift issue is critical to the success of overnight tourism,’ he said.

Already having served four years on the board in the Watersports sector, Mr. Broadbelt now takes the baton over as President. And with six new members on its 15-member board, there is new energy and ideas coming forward. ‘It’s always good to get some new ideas and we’re already moving forward on some of them,’ he said.

He noted that those that serve on the board do it on an entirely voluntary basis for the greater good of the tourism industry.

The CITA was formed back in 2001 to allow various sectors of the tourism industry to come together and work as one unit, giving strength through numbers.

But following the challenges to the industry that stemmed from Hurricane Ivan in 2004, Mr. Broadbelt feels the association has moved forward from that and now it is time to strengthen it, increase membership numbers and add more valuable and useful services to members.

‘One of the priorities of strengthening the association is to help our members by driving down the cost of doing business where we can, such as through more competitive group healthcare plans,’ he said.

Another move forward is the association’s move to more specifically represent the cruise sector.

New Allied board member, Emma Graham Taylor of the Image Group, is strongly representative of cruise tourism.

‘We support the proper balance between cruise and stay-over tourism and we hope that having Emma on the board will give that a voice,’ said Mr. Broadbelt.

However, a new position is to be created in the next few months for a specific cruise representative on the board.

‘For many years people have thought that CITA is opposed to cruise tourism and that is a large misconception. For many of our members, a good portion of their business comes from the cruise industry.

‘One way or the other a third to a quarter of the board has always, through their private business, had some interest in the cruise industry.’

But it was felt that the time had come to formalise that more by having somebody on the board to represent that industry more specifically and to keep the CITA’s representation more balanced of how the tourism industry is in 2008, said Mr. Broadbelt.

The CITA will also be continuing its speaker series. A speaker from Google will be give a presentation on web marketing on 29 May.

Other CITA initiatives include looking to help with the Blue Iguana Recovery Fund Project and also moving forward with the USS Kittiwake project, the sinking of a US Navy auxiliary submarine that dates back to World War II, to serve as a dive attraction.

‘It’s still a work-in-progress and we’re currently reviewing agreements with the Cayman Islands government. We’re in the final stages of negotiating details and look forward to making an announcement in the near future,’ said Mr. Broadbelt.