Ken Hydes vowed to work to continue the upward momentum of the tourism industry after being re-elected president of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association on Wednesday.
Mr. Hydes, special projects coordinator at Dart Enterprises, said it is important that the industry does not become complacent after achieving record tourism arrivals in 2014.
He said the hotels, restaurants, water-sports businesses and other private sector partners need to work with government to ensure visitors keep returning to these shores.
“The important thing now is that we build on our success,” he said. “Turning those tourists into repeat visitors is going to be a big part of the focus going forward.”
Mr. Hydes was re-elected to head a new-look executive council, with Theresa Broderick of Plantana condos as vice-president, following a ballot during the tourism association’s annual general meeting at the Westin resort on Seven Mile Beach.
“I think there is momentum right now in the industry,” Mr. Hydes said immediately after the vote. “There are a lot of issues that carry over from last year, and I look forward to building on those and carrying on the success that we have had.”
He said a key priority is ensuring opportunities for Caymanians to share in the success of the industry.
Those sentiments were echoed by Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell, who targeted jobs and opportunities as key priorities.
“While it is encouraging to register record-breaking arrivals,” he said, “for the tourism industry to really deliver on its true potential as the second pillar of our economy, it must provide jobs for those who wish to work, business opportunities for those who choose to invest, and bring opportunities for wealth creation and prosperity for those who are prepared to collaborate and work hard for the greater good of our Cayman Islands.”
Both Mr. Hydes and Mr. Kirkconnell suggested the upward trend in air arrivals would continue throughout 2015.
Mr. Kirkconnell noted that the first two months of 2015 had outstripped the record successes of 2014. But he said Cayman is not likely to see the same year-on-year “double digit” improvement that led to a record 382,000 tourists arriving in Grand Cayman in 2014. The 11 percent increase on the previous year was more than double the Caribbean average.
Mr. Kirkconnell acknowledged that increasing room stock is also a priority if the success is to continue. He added, “We have reached the saturation point and are experiencing the first signs of limitations in capacity.”
He said several infrastructure and development projects, including Dart’s Kimpton hotel on Seven Mile Beach and a planned five-star development at Beach Bay, Bodden Town, would have an impact. However, he cautioned it would take two years to see any significant measurable benefits from these projects.
Mr. Hydes added, “We have gone from a situation of trying to get bums in beds to the point where it is about finding the beds to put them in. It is a good position to be in.”
Mr. Kirkconnell also updated industry figureheads on the progress of the airport and cruise projects, predicting work would be under way on the $50 million expansion of the Owen Roberts International Airport by summer.
He said an environmental impact assessment had been completed on the port project, and a mitigation plan was in the final stages of production, with design development expected to begin shortly.
New executive council
Members of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, the private sector lobbying organization for the tourism industry, also voted in a new executive council during the meeting, with directors having responsibility for different areas of tourism.
The new council is:
- Water sports directors: Keith Sahm (Sunset House), Ash McKnight (GoPro Cayman)
- Condominium directors: Theresa Broderick (Plantana condos), Gaetan Babin (Wyndham Reef Resort)
- Restaurants and nightclubs: Julie Allan (Rackam’s), Steve Shienfield (Dukes)
- Cruise tourism: Ken Hydes (Dart Realty)
- Transport: Nigel Mitten (Majestic Tours), Brian Krug (Budget)
- Hotels: Marc Langevin (The Ritz-Carlton), Danielle Wolfe (Caribbean Club)
- Allied/Members and land-based attractions: Tim Adam (Cayman Turtle Farm), Joanna Boxall (Acorn Publishing).