Shomari Scott, the director of tourism who started his career as the department’s first intern and worked his way up to the top job, has quit the post for a “new challenge” in the private sector.
Mr. Scott was credited with helping drive visitor arrival numbers back to near record levels, achieving that surge in spite of a worldwide economic recession that hurt the tourism industry across the Caribbean.
He believes innovative use of social media and marketing promotions helped Cayman prosper while rival destinations struggled.
He said he was most proud of having established a strong team at the Department of Tourism and expressed confidence that his successor would take arrival numbers past the record of 354,087 within the next few years.
Mr. Scott said the record, set in 2000, had been his target since taking over the top job, first on an interim basis in 2009 and then permanently last year.
He said he was disappointed not to get over the line, but after overseeing a 23 percent rise in stay over arrivals in the past four years, he is confident that he has left the department and the islands’ tourism fortunes on the right trajectory.
He declined to reveal what his new job would be, saying only that the opportunity had been too good to pass up.
“I started with the department as an intern when I was 18. I came back to work full- time after my degree. I worked hard and took the opportunities that came my way.
“I’ve had five different jobs at the Department of Tourism and it was time to move on to a new challenge. The DoT has a great team, and moving forward they are going to achieve great things.”
During his time at the helm, Mr. Scott says, the department has invested in local talent, moving to an almost 100 per cent Caymanian workforce.
He said creative use of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media was a key feature of his tenure, helping Cayman stay buoyant as the “economic tsunami” struck.
“We recognized quickly that value for money was going to be the new order of the day. We organized eight destination promotions in 2010 and actually had positive uplift in visitation when the rest of the world was down.”
Mr. Scott said he first found his passion for tourism working summer jobs at Red Sail Watersports and at the Hyatt.
“I loved that my efforts and the work I was doing was creating special memories for people,” he said.
Mr. Scott was the department’s first intern in 1996, and after completing his studies in marketing at Stetson University, he returned to the Cayman Islands in 2002 as a full-time employee.
Moses Kirkconnell, minister for tourism, said, “Mr. Scott’s departure will be a huge loss to the tourism industry and to the government service.
“However, I am pleased that he is staying within the Cayman Islands and will continue to focus his efforts towards the ultimate goal of increasing the economic benefits for the people of the Cayman Islands. He has my full support, and I wish him all the best in this new chapter of his life.”
Mr. Scott will stay with the department until the end of the year after which deputy directors Rosa Harris and Oneisha Richards will share the responsibility for managing the department in an acting capacity
Chief Officer Stran Bodden added: “It has been an absolute pleasure to work with Mr. Scott, and from one young Caymanian to another, I am proud to see him take this leap to further his career.”