The unsung heroes of Cayman tourism swapped swimsuits and flip-flops for black ties and ball gowns as the industry honored its best workers at the annual Stingray Awards.
Clemens Guettler, a former waiter who arrived in Cayman in 1970 planning to stay for a single season and ended up running one of the islands’ most prestigious restaurants – the Wharf, received the lifetime achievement award.
Mr. Guettler was celebrated for a 44-year career in the industry. But everyone, from room cleaners and bar staff to hotel managers and dive masters, had their moment in the spotlight during the glitzy awards ceremony at the Westin Grand Cayman resort on Tuesday night. More than 250 people from all sections of the industry attended the gala dinner, hosted by the Cayman Islands Tourism Association.
CITA president Ken Hydes paid tribute to the hard work of all involved in the industry. “If there was a TripAdvisor award for the best tourism team, you would get it,” he said.
Mr. Hydes also revealed that Tiffany Dixon-Ebanks will be the new executive director of CITA – moving from a role at the Chamber of Commerce to take over at the helm. She takes over from Jane Scaletta.
Among the winners at this year’s awards ceremony were Bendel Ebanks, of the Cayman Turtle Farm wildlife encounter, Kelly Higginbottom, of Off the Wall Divers and Z99 radio host Jason Howard.
The final and most prestigious award of the night, the Lifetime Achievement Award, went to Mr. Guettler, owner of the Wharf and founder of the Cayman Islands Restaurant Association. Mr. Guettler who got his first foot in the kitchen door at the Caribbean Club and went on to manage the Lobster Pot. Premier Alden McLaughlin, in his keynote address, thanked workers for making the tourism industry go from strength to strength. “Tonight we are recognizing those individuals who on a day-to-day basis offer the greatest contributions to the tourism industry,” he said. “They are the people who provide great service to guests both on the front lines and behind the scenes. Without them, we would not have the outstanding tourism product we do.”
Stingray Award Winners
- Accommodations: Manager, Melina Forla, Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa; Employee, Viki Kapusi, Reef Resort
- Allied/Attraction/Transportation: Manager – Jason Howard, Hurley’s Entertainment; Employee, Andrew Brown, Celebrations
- Restaurant: Manager, Catherine Murray, Cimboco; Employee, Jean Johnson, Chicken!Chicken!
- Watersports: Manager, Doug Anderson, Red Sail Sports; Employee, Kelly Higginbottom, Off the Wall Divers
- Long Service: Bendel Ebanks, Cayman Turtle Farm: Island Wildlife Encounter
- Rising Star: John Douglas, The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman
- Lifetime Achievement Award: Clemens Guettler, The Wharf Restaurant & Bar