The Cayman Islands Tourism Association has a new president and board of directors.
Jane van der Bol, the group’s executive director, said that there was an important continuity but that there were also new members bringing their experience and energy to the table.
“It is good to have the Westin and the Ritz-Carlton in our hotel sector; Keith Sahm of Sunset House is back in a very strong water sports representation and we added Gaetan Babin from theReef resort to our condo/villas section, which is important as we now have the point of view of the eastern side of the island as well,” she explained.
“We really do have a strong board and coming into an election year we need people who are engaged and active in tourism and our product.”
A new president, Ken Hydes, was also elected.
“Ken has already served several years on the board and is also cruise director,” said the executive director. “He brings background from working at the Turtle Farm from an attraction point of view plus his work at Camana Bay. He has been in tourism for a very long time and also has the connections that our president must have with the government side as well.
“If government does not respect our board of directors it becomes a lot harder for that relationship to flourish. Ken was a great choice. He is Caymanian, in the industry, has worked with government on many projects in the past so that relationship is there.”
Outgoing president Harry Lalli echoed those words.
“He will do a fantastic job,” Mr. Lalli said. “Ken is going to be great for this position.”
Costs of business
Ms van der Bol said that 2012 had still been a tough year for tourism across the board, including the Cayman Islands. One of the biggest challenges that the members felt, she said, were issues like the cost of doing business.
“That really does affect all of the issues – duty, fees, immigration costs, etcetera. We need to find a better way to run our businesses so we can pass those cost savings to our visitors and so that we are not pricing ourselves out of the region.
“The Caribbean has proven time and again to be the top tourism destination worldwide, be that business, incentive, personal or staycation. We are in an incredible location for tourism. However, our region tends to be not that expensive compared to other worldwide areas. If we are too expensive [tourism service providers may] give up service for price and we do not want that to happen.”
She added that economies were starting to stabilise and travel was up which was good news but that cruise schedules from May to September looked very light with some weeks seeing only two ships in port.
“That will have a huge effect on our members involved in the cruise market – attractions, shops, tours. We really need to reach out to our members and encourage them to start planning now how to navigate that slow period and continue to be in business.
“We have been informed that there are four cruise lines that would like to be involved with building a dock in the Cayman Islands. The CITA is not in those meetings, so we are not aware of what the offers are but there was a time that they were not interested. That shows we are a viable market and we need to keep that interest,” she noted.
Cruise visitors could be seen as familiarising themselves with the destination with the intent being to encourage them to come back to stay for longer, added Ms van der Bol.
The meeting was held at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort on Wednesday, 17 April.