The Cayman Islands is making inroads into a growing Italian market.
Representatives from the Department of Tourism in Europe have been present at some vital industry conferences, at which interest in the destination has grown, said Don McDougall, the tourism department’s country manager for Europe. One area is discussions with airlines that may not be able to land direct for volume, cost and runway reasons.
“Cayman Airways is very supportive of our strategy to grow the business from Europe; if we cannot get these airlines to come directly the next step is to find the alternative which is one-stop airlift,” he said. “Paul Tibbetts and his team are working very hard to try and tie up arrangements with European airlines on the continent. They are progressing rapidly with Alitalia. We sat down with the team in December and agreed a strategy where we would support that activity through developing sales and marketing in Italy.
“By working with Alitalia and their distribution, staff and tour operators and travel agents that sell Alitalia is one route and another is to do our own consumer events like travel shows and dive shows where we put Cayman Islands on the map to people who are coming to the shows to be sold to,” Mr. McDougall said. “We also work through PR and that could well eventually extend to consumer advertising.”
To that end, the department was represented at the Borsa International Tourism Exchange travel show in Milan for the first time in around a decade.
“When we started to do some pre-event publicity one of the local TV stations picked up on us being one of the three new exhibitors on the show, which gave a big heads up to people and we were swamped at the show,” he said. “The European Dive show was also taking place in a different exhibition hall at the same centre and so we worked with Italian dive tour operator Fulvio Bonati, who is from Milan and owned a five star PADI dive centre.
“Because he is now a resident of Cayman he is absolutely passionate about introducing the destination to his natives in Italy,” Mr. McDougall said. “He offered to help us and so he manned the tour operator stand at the dive show for us. It gave him the platform to the dive fraternity that he knows because he runs a very successful dive business back in Milan. It worked like a dream,” the tourism expert said.
Mr. Bonati told the Compass that the Italian moneyed tourist is looking always for new experiences.
“The Cayman Islands is different to other Caribbean islands; maybe it is slightly expensive but it is safe, it has good infrastructure, accommodation, tours and diving, plus stable government,” he said. “I have been in other Caribbean islands where you have to be always careful when you go out walking at night. But Cayman is a good place.
“Italians love travel and trips, and in fact of one group of 40 people which visited in 2011, 60 per cent came back this year,” he said. “They loved the way they were treated, the things to do – and of course the Italian restaurants,” he said.
Part of the strategy is to take out placement in Italian dive magazines, websites and newspapers in the Italian language as well as a dive brochure for use at both shows.
Mr. McDougall noted that building new markets slowly was part of a strategy that was being pursued.
“Until now this market has been 1,000 visitors but we have not invested in this market because basically it is not a good use of these funds. However, [this has developed] because of Cayman Airways’ relationship building with Alitalia and the marvellous coincidence that Fulvio is passionate about bringing Italians to Cayman and there are other Italians who share that passion about what we are doing,” he said.
Documentation is in the process of being completed which would enable Italians to check baggage and check-in all the way through from Italy to Cayman, added the department of tourism representative. Steps are also being taken to facilitate travel industry buy of Cayman Airways tickets and earning commission, which has not been the case in the past.
Aside from the Italian market, there have been ‘early stage’ discussions with German representatives to implement a similar plan as and when logistics were in place, Mr. McDougall said.