Sister Islands move to expand tourism

Cayman Airways began direct flights
from Miami to Cayman Brac in April; a move that tourism industry insiders hope
will boost tourist numbers on the Sister Islands.

The vast majority of vacationers
who go the Sister Islands for holiday are divers, a fact that the Sister
Islands Tourism Association acknowledges and hopes to build on.

Moses Kirkconnell, president of the
Sister Islands Tourism Association and the Islands’ representative in the
Legislative Assembly, said the Islands were concentrating on developing its
diving product – diving.

“We are really excited about our
tourism product and the opportunity Paloma gave us to reinvent Cayman Brac and
Little Cayman to an extent,” said Mr. Kirkconnell.

Since Hurricane Paloma caused
massive devastation on Cayman Brac in November 2008, the Island’s hotel
proprietors, business owners and service providers have worked hard to rebuild
its infrastructure and as a result, the Island now offers new and refurbished
accommodation to tourists.

“We were excited and glad when the
Alexander Hotel was able to open last July. We are very pleased the Brac Reef
got opened [in February]. We look forward to Carib Sands and Brac Caribbean
coming back online in the next couple of months,” Mr. Kirkconnell said.

“We will have more rooms than we
had before Paloma. They will offer increased services. That was the opportunity
Paloma presented for every property that was damaged. It gave us time to
rebuild in a better way,” said Mr. Kirkconnell.

Both Islands offer an array of
attractions to visitors – the hard part is marketing that to overseas visitors
and ensuring they can get to the Islands.

The recent addition of a new direct
route, departing Miami at a time that syncs well with many connecting flights
into that hub, is something Brackers have been urging for some time.

Working with Cayman Airways

“Our government has been diligently
working with Cayman Airways, the Department of Tourism and the Sister Islands
Tourism Association to secure this very crucial airlift to the Sister Islands
as the tourism industry on Cayman Brac in particular is seeing growth through
its ongoing revitalisation,” said Deputy Premier and Sister Islands representative
Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, when the announcement of the new route was made.

An updated website called
itsyourstoexplore.com gives tourists and potential visitors a good overview of
what’s the Islands offer.

The site highlights some of the
unique elements that will appeal to divers, rock climbers and those simply
looking for a vacation filled with peace and quiet, and maybe some low-key exploring.

Though it’s diving that the Sister
Islands Tourism is focussing on for now, Mr. Kirkconnell said, climbers still
continue to visit the Brac to experience its exhilarating 152-foot high bluff.

A book by Skip Harper, called
Adventuring in Cayman Brac, outlines many of the climbing sites on the Island,
as well as shore dives, snorkelling and sunbathing sites.

Conference tourism

Mr. Kirkconnell and the Sister
Islands Tourism Association also hope to build up conference tourism in the
Sister Islands.

The Alexander Hotel has conference
facilities, and the Brac Reef is in the process of completing its conference
room. There are also conference options available on Little Cayman.

Mr. Kirkconnell said he hopes
businesses on Grand Cayman and the US will take advantage of the new conference
tourism products available in the Sister Islands.

“We have the facilities here now on
both Islands so there are real options for more retreats and conferences for
business to hold here,” he said.

SITA is also looking to promote the
Islands’ unique nature tourism.

Little Cayman is a Mecca for
tourists interested in bird watching. It is home to the large Booby Pond Nature
Reserve, where red-footed boobies, frigate birds, West Indian Whistling Ducks,
plovers, herons and sandpipers abound.

Its quiet roads and undeveloped
interior has meant that the native Rock Iguana has flourished there. The
iguanas can still be seen roaming the roads and pavements, mostly undisturbed
by humans.

There are measures afoot though to
create a conservation area especially for the iguanas on Little Cayman.

Little Cayman also boasts its own
Maritime Museum and National Trust Visitors Centre, both of which offer
glimpses into the tiny Islands’ history. Both venues draw a steady stream of
visitors.

Chevala Burke in the Cayman Brac
District Administration Office, explained that free island tours are offered on
Cayman Brac in which a guide will accompany visitors on trips around the Island
– exploring cave and finding hiking trails and ideal snorkelling and swimming
spots.

“Our tours normally last about two
hours and are free,” said Ms Burke.

Mr. Kirkconnell said he hoped the
Sister Islands could have more events that would attract visitors to the Brac
and Little Cayman, much the same as Grand Cayman has with its annual jazz
festival, the Cayman Cookout and Taste of Cayman.

Tourists do make special trips to
the Sister Islands already for their fishing tournaments.

It is estimated that visitors to the
Sister Islands spend about $161 a day, totalling $23 million a year.

Visit CompassPoint:
The Future of Tourism
for an in-depth look at the tourism industry.

TOPSisterIslandsmoveSTORY

Brown boobies on the Cayman Brac Bluff.
Photo: Norma Connolly
0
0

NO COMMENTS