Southern Cross resort manager Neil van Niekerk has targeted an increase in inter-island travel within the Cayman Islands after being re-elected as president of the Sister Islands Tourism Association.
A new focus on marketing the destination for long weekend breaks for Grand Cayman residents will be part of the strategy.
Mr. van Niekerk said the slow mid-summer season was a time when inter-island tourism was particularly valuable.
“There is definitely that need and the businesses do try to encourage that by offering local rates,” he added.
The Bloody Bay marine park has made Little Cayman a thriving tourist destination, though the fortunes of Cayman Brac have been less consistent.
A new push to market the larger island as a shore diving destination aims to change that.
“The Cayman Islands does not have a lot of shore diving. There are a couple of spots in Grand Cayman. Little Cayman does not have too much, because of issues with access, but there is much more opportunity in the Brac.
“We have identified 25 separate dive sites and we have a book coming out in November that will be a guide for tourists.”
He said there would be an effort to tie that in with condo and car rental promotions to encourage tourists to spend on drive and dive vacations.
Travel between Cayman Brac and Little Cayman remains an issue, with the requirement to fly, making it unappealing for divers.
The thorny issue of the Divi Tiara hotel, closed in 2007 and damaged by a hurricane, remains a taxing one for tourism chiefs on the Sister Islands. The hotel has become an eyesore.
“We are trying to put pressure on the government to deal with it. It is in a derelict state and we would like to see it cleaned up and demolished. From a tourism standpoint, it is not attractive.”
The association has also launched a website, www.sita.ky, which it hopes will drive business to the islands. “We are excited to launch the new website as we believe that the membership will benefit from the updated search ability with the new and updated content. It is also an effective marketing tool for members to use to promote their individual business,” said Mr. van Niekerk, who added that anyone planning a trip to the Sister Islands can use the site as a starting point.
The new SITA board is Neil van Niekerk, president; Roxane Boonstra, Brac Scuba Shack divemaster, vice president; Marc Pothier, manager at Paradise Villas, treasurer; Chevala Burke, executive secretary.