|Cayman Net News, Grand Cayman, Cayman
IslandsMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Jan. 12, 2010--"Cautiously optimistic", due to a steady growth in visitors to the Cayman Islands as the worldwide economy thaws is how the Department of Tourism's (DoT) top official predicted the local industry will fare in 2010.
Shomari Scott, the Cayman Islands' Acting Director of Tourism, was interviewed by the webzine, Breaking Tourist News (BTN) at the Caribbean Hotel Association's (CHA) "Caribbean Marketplace" event in Puerto Rico that ended last week.
"The Cayman Islands ended the last two months of the year on a positive note, up by five percent from the same months in the previous year," Mr Scott told BTN, "in part due to the work of the private sector in bringing added-value promotions to the marketplace."
Approximately 400 supplier companies and destinations showcased their products to close to 900 buyers from US, UK, Canada, Europe and Latin America at the CHA Caribbean Marketplace, with approximately 1,600 attendees from 35 countries.
Mr Scott said he attended the CHA event to meet and cement relationships with wholesale partners and airline travel arms, solidify co-op marketing, discuss results and projections and changes in consumer behaviour. Crediting the Cayman government for working closely with the tourism sector, the largest employer in the Islands, Mr Scott told BTN of a number of initiatives in the next few months that should appeal to tourists abroad, targeting especially those in the US, UK and Canada.
"The Cayman Islands 'Get Warm Winter' promotion and 'That's So Cold' contest are key initiatives for this winter," said Mr Scott. "For travel from today through 15 May 2010, visitors can take advantage of upgrades, savings and free nights from multiple accommodations, dive operators and attractions on-island; including a free trip to the world-famous Stingray City."
Along with the free admission to Stingray City, 10 hotels and resorts, including the Ritz-Carlton, the Marriott of Grand Cayman, and the Westin Casuarina, are offering visitors one free night's accommodation for booking a five-night stay until 15 May.
A direct flight from Washington, D.C., to George Town will cost only $125 during the same time period, and the "That's So Cold" contest is a photo contest picturing a person's coldest moments this winter to win a four-day Cayman vacation. The annual Cayman Cookout being held at the Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman this year 14 -- 18 January is a world-class event, which draws visitors and highlights Cayman's epicurean diversity.
"Additionally, there are some exciting SCUBA diving initiatives underway," said Mr Scott. "In addition to the more than 250 dive sites currently in Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, and Cayman Brac, the Cayman Islands has acquired a retired US naval ship, the USS Kittiwake, which is slated to be sunk in Cayman's waters this spring to serve as an exciting new dive attraction."
To help protect its thriving marine life, this new dive site will provide a necessary relief for some of the most frequently visited dive sites, Mr Scott told BTN, pointing also to the "Dive 365" promotion that suggests a different dive site each day of the year.
In another environmental initiative to protect the reef's fragile ecosystem, new dive sites have been identified, resulting in 65 new sites in Grand Cayman, six in Cayman Brac, and eight in Little Cayman, which will allow other certain sites to be "rested."
The sinking of the Kittiwake and these other initiatives "prove the Cayman Islands' commitment to protecting its reefs from environmental overuse," said Mr Scott, "ensuring that many further generations can experience and enjoy the magnificent marine life unique to this Caribbean destination."
The tourism director pointed also to a growing trend in vacations, the family vacation, a natural fit with the Cayman Islands, which can differentiate itself from other sun, sand and sea destinations due to its "personality" combined with its world-class beaches and underwater environment.
"Cayman is one of the most vibrant, contemporary, continually-evolving societies in the Caribbean, with a worldly, welcoming and successful personality that, when combined with our natural beauty, creates a story that no other vacation destination can match," said Mr Scott. "It is this compelling, unique personality that positions the Cayman Islands well to capitalize on the burgeoning family market."
Research has shown that in the midst of the current economic environment there is added interest in spending time with families, and family travel is expected to show significant growth over the next decade, according to Mr Scott.
"A unique summer programme is currently in the works for launch very soon," he added. "Additionally, the five shades of Cayman blue water are found nowhere else, the diving is incredible and the destination is working to lead the region in sustainable initiatives and eco-friendly projects."
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