The Cayman Islands government spent nearly $42,000 to send Deputy Premier Juliana O’Connor-Connolly and two companions to the 25th Universal Postal Congress in Doha, Qatar.
The two-week-long trip from 29 September to 14 October included business class plane tickets and rooms at four- and five-star rated hotels, including four nights in midtown Manhattan, according to information provided by Ms O’Connor-Connolly’s ministry.
Accompanying the deputy premier on her trip were the ministry’s Chief Officer Alan Jones and her executive aide Paul Leonce.
For the trip, flight costs were $21,678.
Hotel costs were $14,238. The total delegation’s per diem was $5,790. In total, the trip cost $41,707.
Held every four years, the postal congress brings together representatives from the 192 member countries of the Universal Postal Union, which is a United Nations specialised agency. Cayman by itself is not a member country of the postal union; however, it is one of 15 entities that collectively make up the postal union member of Overseas Territories (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland). Cayman is also a member of one of the postal union’s 16 restricted unions, the Caribbean Postal Union.
The deputy premier’s ministry is responsible for the Cayman Islands Postal Service.
The postal congress opened 24 September, with eight committees meeting until 4 October. The plenary sessions took place from 7 to 14 October. A ministerial conference occurred 8 October.
Webcasts of the congress’ plenary sessions are available online for free at the UN Web TV site.
According to the ministry, the delegation spent two nights at the Grand Hyatt New York before travelling on to Qatar and two nights at the Grand Hyatt New York before travelling back to Cayman. That cost $3,645.
However, ministry information officer Tanya Vasquez-Ebanks said via e-mail, “Please note that due to flight layover schedules and time differences, early check-in and late check-out on the way to Qatar were required, as their connecting flight didn’t leave until 11pm, which resulted in an extra night’s charge. This meant that five nights for ‘standard rooms’ had to be paid for, at a rate of $364.47 a night per room.”
The Grand Hyatt New York’s website describes the hotel as having “a fabulous Midtown Manhattan setting … just steps away from Grand Central Terminal”. According to the website, the “newly renovated … luxurious hotel” is “a longtime legend on the New York scene”. TripAdvisor gives the Manhattan hotel four out of five stars.
Four Seasons, Renaissance Doha
Once in the capital city of Qatar, the delegation rented two rooms at the Four Seasons Hotel Doha for 10 nights apiece. The average rate works out to $368 per room per night. The Four Seasons website describes the accommodations thusly: “Our resort-like waterfront city hotel offers luxury touches that echo the essence of what you want as a traveller: comfort, service and beauty for all five senses. Cool off in our grotto pools or host a Doha business meeting in a soaring outdoor tent. Here, anything is possible.”
“With seven restaurants and lounges, a three-storey Spa and Wellness Centre, comprehensive business facilities and a private beach, Four Seasons Hotel Doha is a haven for business travellers and pleasure seekers. Experience 17 storeys of modern luxury blended with classical charm.”
TripAdvisor gives the Four Seasons Hotel Doha five out of five stars and ranks it No. 1 out of 112 hotels in the city.
In addition to the Four Seasons, the delegation rented out another room at the nearby Renaissance Doha City Center Hotel for 12 nights. The average rate works out to $269 per night.
The Renaissance website says the property is “one of the premier hotels in Doha” and “is located in the new business district of West Bay”.
According to the website, “Our Doha hotel’s contemporary elegance seamlessly blends business with pleasure. Only 15 minutes from Doha International Airport, this elegant, hip and contemporary deluxe-class hotel offers breathtaking views of the skyline and the Arabian Gulf. Top among hotels in Doha, Qatar and connected to the City Center Shopping Mall, our hotels central location provides plenty to do. All 257 guest rooms are expressively yet functionally designed, with complete amenities to pamper all, whether it is for the well-travelled business executive or the fun-seeking leisure traveller.”
TripAdvisor gives the Renaissance Doha City Center Hotel five out of five stars and ranks it No. 11 out of 112 hotels in the city.
$214K for travel
Since August 2009, government has spent $213,819 for 21 international trips involving the deputy premier, according to information provided by the ministry. That includes more than $91,000 for seven trips in 2012.
The Qatar trip was the most expensive, followed by a weeklong trip to Barcelona, Spain, for a mobile telecommunications conference in February 2011 that cost $35,355 and included Member of the Legislative Assembly Cline Glidden and two other individuals in addition to Ms O’Connor-Connolly.
For the Barcelona trip, hotel expenses were $6,409 for rooms at the Melia Barcelona, which has four of five stars from TripAdvisor.
The deputy premier and her fellow delegates have stayed at a number of acclaimed hotels during her term. In addition to the Qatar hotels, Ms O’Connor-Connolly stayed at four hotels given five stars by TripAdvisor. That includes The Ritz-Carlton Golf and Spa Resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica, in October 2009 (Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum); The Goring, London, in December 2009 (Overseas Territories Consultative Council meeting); InterContinental Nairobi, Kenya, in September 2010 (Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meeting); and Four Seasons Hotel Houston, Texas, in April 2012 (with Premier McKeeva Bush for an off transfer shipping meeting for Cayman Brac and Little Cayman).
The deputy premier’s destinations include Jamaica, Anguilla, England, Honduras, Barbados, Kenya, Bahamas, Spain, Canada, Grenada, United States, Tonga, St. Lucia, Sri Lanka and Qatar.