Despite many economic challenges, Harry Lalli’s tenure as president of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association brought triumphs, too.
The outgoing chief of the tourism body told the Compass that one of the most satisfying achievements of Cayman’s sector had been the increase in stay-over arrivals three years in a row, with January 2013 posting the best results for that month since 2001.
“A lot of the Caribbean has had a challenging year,” he said. “But we have bucked that trend.”
Over the three years, he said, the sinking of the Kittiwake was fantastic and since the ex-USS vessel had found its new home in the waters off West Bay, snorkelling and diving numbers had been record-breaking.
“It was fantastic to work with Nancy Easterbrook, Rod McDowall and the whole committee,” he noted. “I wish some of the other major projects such as the cruise berthing project had moved forward quicker. Any incoming government needs to put that as a priority. That will surely help numbers and overall on-island spend because the ships will stay longer and it will be a better experience for them.” He will continue to serve on the board of directors as both immediate past present and in the condo/villa sector, which he said has plenty of potential.
“You know if we can convert more condos into tourism-available bookings we can increase our room stock dramatically without pouring any concrete,” he mused.
Other aspects that have moved forward include medical and sports tourism, an improved Taste of Cayman and two hotel renovations imminent.
He said that the association would continue to try and work with government to eliminate outbound immigration.
Mr. Lalli also noted that his job had been in lobbying the private and public sectors to communicate and work together. He said he was pleased that there had been a very good relationship between the Ministry of Tourism, the Department of Tourism and the association.
“I have to say that the former Minister of Tourism, McKeeva Bush, always took the time out to meet the tourism sector even with his busy schedule.
“From 2010, we had a change in the set-up with the Ministerial Council and the Tourism Advisory Council and it looked like the Cayman Islands Tourism Association was being marginalised, but we met with the minister and got that resolved. Since then, the association has been a very strong body.”
He said that continued communication between public and private bodies was essential to understand the challenges that both faced.
“It is vital to talk with the private sector as a government because we understand these challenges and know how to solve them. It would be awful if governments went and did stuff and then told us afterwards. Customer experience is everything and Caymankind is a brilliant way to put our product forward.”
Mr. Lalli also praised former executive director Trina Savage and her successor, Jane van der Bol, who he described as “a very organised individual who loves tourism”.