The annual Cayman Islands Tourism Association’s Stingray Awards ceremony honours tourism’s finest.
Gladys Howard’s Lifetime Achievement Award brought great cheers from the assembled crowd during the 2012 ceremony and the tourism legend was quick to express her gratitude.
“The evening was lovely – I had some very friends and my staff there with me and other people I knew. I served on the association’s board for many years as the representative for Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, so I knew quite a few people there,” she said.
Ms Howard first got to Little Cayman 26 years ago, she said.
“There was very little here; we did not have electricity. We had an antenna on our gravity-fed water tower. We got our first reverse osmosis system about nine months after I got here.
“Little Cayman really needed cleaning up; I spent a lot of time trying to do that at the very beginning. There was trash all over where the bird sanctuary is now and we worked on developing that into the National Trust property from 1993,” she said.
It was also important to come up with events to enhance tourism traffic and Little Cayman started doing Mardi Gras and Pirates Week around 1993, too, she said.
Other innovations such as an Easter auction and bike races followed as the island became proactive in its tourism offering. Working with the National Trust on establishing and extending sanctuary land, involving significant purchase, has also been a huge factor of Miss Gladys’ work.
And the people have come, from all over the world.
“We have a very good London Department of Tourism office that does a great job over there. We have had a couple from Italy who were very charming. The Department of Tourism does a very good job in promoting the islands. Personally I have done some cooking shows for BBC – someone in Sweden said they saw that one. I also did one for Italy. We have had good exposure in Europe for Little Cayman and I have done them locally as well,” she added.
TV cookery shows
Miss Gladys estimated she has been a chef “for close to 73 years”, since she was 6 and living on a farm.
“Someone had to do the breakfasts, so I did. Later, I went to a home management college where everybody had to do a tour; I got the job of cooking the evening meal and it progressed from there,” she added.
Ultimately, she went to cooking classes in Paris and Dieppe with cordon bleu chefs, which led to a TV show called Pot Pourri, cooking things which could be “done fast with only a few ingredients”.
“I had decided I wanted to go someplace I could dive and cook what I wanted to cook. I looked all over the Caribbean before I finally decided on Cayman. I was on Grand Cayman in 1976 then Little Cayman 10 years later when I looked at this property [Pirates Point].
“The reefs are still some of the most beautiful in the world; I have dove Tahiti, Bora Bora, Indonesia and I truly think they are not as pretty as what we have here,” she said.
And what might the future hold for Little Cayman?
“As I said at the ceremony – we do not need a big airport here. We already have Grand Cayman. Little Cayman should be a secluded, little place. We do not need a bunch of high-rise hotels, jets coming in and stuff.
“We keep up on the tourism end of it and still run four dive operations, which shows diving Bloody Bay Wall has become very well known all around the world.”