Accepting a lifetime achievement award for 52 years of tourism service, divemaster Peter Milburn delivered a message of environmental conservation at the Cayman Stingray Tourism Awards Wednesday evening.
Mr. Milburn began his diving career in 1968 and began working shortly thereafter with dive legend Bob Soto, who he described as a friend, boss and mentor. As part of the group that worked to repair Soto’s Reef from cruise ship damage in 1996, Mr. Milburn has been a long-time advocate for Cayman’s natural environment.
“The main thing I would like to point out is the fact that everyone in this room here tonight in one way, shape or form are all here as caretakers of the very fragile and natural environment that Cayman is so famous for,” Mr. Milburn said from the Kimpton Seafire Resort ballroom.
“This is something that is very important, very vital for the continued success of the Cayman Islands and the tourism business.”
Mr. Milburn is recognized as a pioneer in Cayman’s tourism sector. He has run his own dive business in Cayman since 1978. In 1976, he became the first Caymanian to represent the islands in the Olympics as a sailing competitor.
He is also a founding member of the Cayman Islands Watersports Operators Association.
Cayman Islands Tourism Association President Theresa Leacock-Broderick echoed Mr. Milburn’s call for conservation. She described the environment and the people as the islands’ pillars of success.
“It is fitting to recognize that, yes, our environment is still a pillar to our success, as [are] our people,” she said.
“We need to finish our airport, finish our roads. But we must continue to keep our environment clean and allow our people to shine.”
Other awards categories
Diver, hotelier and marketer Keith Sahm of Sunset House received the Diamond Award, which celebrates tourism professionals with more than 15 years of experience.
Mr. Sahm moved to Cayman in 1998 and has since made his mark on the dive industry. Most recently, he helped found Force Blue, a diving initiative to rehabilitate elite special force operators, many dealing with post-traumatic stress.
Cayman Turtle Centre’s India Narcisse-Elliott took home the Rising Star Tourism Award. Mistress of ceremonies and former Miss Cayman Monyque Brooks called Ms. Narcisse-Elliott extremely deserving of the award and said she has personally witnessed her commitment to exceptional service.
The evening honored a record number of tourism professionals, with 64 individuals nominated for 10 awards categories. The winners were chosen based on their long-term commitment to excellent service on the islands.
Minister of Commerce Joey Hew said this commitment is what drives Cayman’s tourism industry.
“There are hundreds of places with beach, water and sand. What we have to offer is exceptional service,” Mr. Hew said, speaking in the absence of Premier Alden McLaughlin.
“It is because of outstanding service that visitors choose to stay longer, tell their friends about their Cayman-kind experience and come back to visit us time and time again.” He highlighted several pending hospitality projects, including a boutique hotel planned near Kirk Market and a five-star luxury resort slated for the southern tip of Seven Mile Beach.
He also applauded the growth in hotel room availability. Rosa Harris of the Department of Tourism said there are now 6,002 available rooms in Cayman.
The first four months of the year have already attracted 850,000 visitors to the islands, Mr. Hew said. In that time, 150,000 visitors arrived by plane and 700,000 by cruise ship.