Travel delegates updated on Cayman tourism

The soft re-opening of Cayman Brac in April was one of the key tourism updates given to overseas travel wholesalers visiting the Cayman Islands over this past weekend for the Cayman Islands Tourism Exchange.

Around 35 overseas delegates (wholesalers, travel media and visiting journalists) attended the three-day event organised by the Cayman Islands Tourism Association and supported by the Department of Tourism, which showcases the islands’ offerings and allows for business interaction.

But there were some last minute cancellations because of the swine flu.

‘Not because they didn’t want to come here but because they had to re-route people’s travels,’ explained Executive Director of the CITA Trina Christian.

‘We had four wholesalers cancel and some of them with one or two delegates. Anyone who comes down, they are big players in the travel industry, so even though it might be one person, it’s a company that’s not here.’

But she said they were delighted with the turnout all the same.

Forty-five local delegates also participated. New exhibitors included the Black Pearl Skate and Surf Park and a Condo/Villa pavilion in an effort to promote this sector of accommodations.

In a special presentation given Friday morning at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, DoT’s Deputy Director of Product Development Sharon Banfield-Bovell said that on Cayman Brac, eight licensed tourist properties offering 20 rooms are now open there following the island’s

blow from Hurricane Paloma in November of last year.

Also, 90 per cent of the trails, parks, caves and other attractions are open. Beaches, restaurants, car rental companies and supermarkets are also open.

In his opening address Minister for Tourism Charles Clifford said, ‘While there’s still lots of work to be done, we know that the Cayman Brac product, when it fully comes back online, will be stronger than what it was before.’

He said the Ministry and Department of Tourism continue working toward their goal of increasing arrivals year over year and he outlined some of the promotions that are currently on offer to entice visitors.

The Minister noted some of the challenges that the industry currently faces, including consumer confidence being at an all-time low because of the global recession, people cutting back on travel and that even the affluent are looking for a deal.

He added that the Swine Flu virus is another challenge that tourism now has to face.

But, he said, there are signs that the economic slowdown is slowing and vacation spending is poised to be one of the first categories to rebound with the family getaway the most prominent travel motivation.

In the coming months the DoT will assess and re-assess everything in line with their programmes and promotions, delegates were told.

President of CITA Stephen Broadbelt appealed to visiting delegates to help the Cayman Islands with any advice or tips they can in the goal to grow tourism air arrivals from 300,000 to 400,000 a year over the next five years.

He again highlighted the need for a runway extension at Owen Roberts International Airport.

The CITE kicked off on Thursday 30 April, with delegates departing Sunday 3 May.

Each year, this is the only annual forum for leading suppliers of the local tourism industry to meet in the Cayman Islands with travel wholesalers from the US, UK, Europe and Canada in a professionally organised business exchange.

Highlights of this year’s CITE included a welcome reception at Camana Bay Roof top terrace, a tradeshow, a destination wedding lunch presented by Jo-Anne Brown of Celebrations, functions including a cultural evening, excursions to Little Cayman and to Stingray City, Batabano Parade, and diving.