Pioneers in the Cayman Islands tourism sector were at the heart of National Heroes Day celebrations on Monday as honors were bestowed on more than 400 tourism contributors in George Town’s Heroes Square.
Event host Kenneth Hydes, president of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, described the industry as a diverse sector abounding with opportunities for engineers, chefs and a litany of other career paths for young professionals.
“We’re at a point where we are seeing the quality, and now we are building on quantity,” he said, pointing to hotel and cruise ship development projects across the islands.
The day began with a procession that included the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service band, the prison service, the fire service, the Girls’ Brigade, Scouts and Pathfinders. Three hundred preschool and primary school students marched in uniform, waving the Cayman flag before the crowd.
Premier Alden McLaughlin reflected on tourism growth since the early days of the industry, leading up to a record 2.7 million visitors in 2015.
He anticipated 2016 data would reveal another record-breaking year.
“Tourism is an industry that has grown by leaps and bounds, from the first airline flight on the 20th of October, 1947, a seaplane that landed on our sound in George Town barcadere where passengers were greeted by boat,” Premier McLaughlin said.
He praised the Cayman Islands School of Hospitality for offering a professional path for young Caymanians.
Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said that in a land with few natural resources, what sets Cayman apart is the friendliness and hard work of its people.
A Bravery Citation was awarded to Gary Nathan Andrei Rankin for responding to a distress call by two women kayaking off shore on June 13, 2016. Mr. Rankin was 14 at the time.
Rudy Myles was awarded the Badge of Honour for his decades-long commitment to the arts.
There were 255 Long Service Awards for long-standing tourism contributors, 23 early pioneers awarded for contributions made before 1960, awards to 55 pioneers who made contributions after 1961, and awards to 19 emerging pioneers who have made contributions since 2007. Awardees were presented with a commemorative insignia to symbolize their contributions.
The day also recognized Cayman’s historic heroes, including 87 names of men and women on the Memorial Scroll.