Local dive industry is optimistic about 2016 with more flights and rooms added to the Cayman market; Dock remains a concern for customers
As it does every year, the Cayman Islands had a good presence at the annual Dive Equipment & Marketing Association (DEMA) convention, this year held in Orlando, FL November 4 – 7, 2015. The recognized birthplace of recreational diving in the Caribbean is home to a progressive dive industry that prides itself in helping set the standard for the dive industry worldwide. The three islands, with crystal clear water, spectacular reefs and abundant marine life, feature some of the best diving in the world − each island offering different experiences to divers of all skill levels. Cayman dive leaders aggressively work together to keep the Cayman dive product fresh, and their efforts pay off with numerous awards for Best Overall Dive Destination in the Caribbean and Atlantic.
DEMA is the place to introduce new products and book business for the new year, and the dive travel industry is set to scoop up deals and special offers from worldwide destinations.
“It was an exciting DEMA for Divetech, with our new dive and room package offerings, we were very interested to see how the trade received the options and was very pleasantly surprised!” said Joanna Mikutowicz, Divetech Managing Partner. “It was great to meet new dive shops, plus reconnect with manufacturers’ training agencies, and connect with old friends. We are looking forward to an exciting year ahead, the new sea pool at Lighthouse Point is already being discovered by many.”
Red Sail Sports introduced a new Kittiwake Wreck Anniversary Dive Package for 2016 that sparked a lot of interest and generated bookings on the spot.
“We had a great DEMA this year and even took bookings at the show with the help of our new reservation system,” said Sarah-Jane Harlan, Red Sail Sports Sales and Marketing Manager. “We are in the middle of completing the biggest upgrade of our reservations system we have ever undertaken and will be rolling out to our online booking engine in the next few weeks.”
The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism (CIDOT) was also there during the four-day event to share special news and promotions, and release details of next year’s International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame inductees. The ISDHOF has been recognizing dive industry pioneers since its inception in Grand Cayman 2000 fifteen years ago.
The Cayman Islands Pavilion, located in a prime spot near the main entrance and registration area, was the site for a number of events. Also on display at the pavilion were historical dive artefacts from the Cayman Islands.
The Department of Tourism also marked the anniversaries of two famous Cayman dive sites and artificial reefs; the ex-USS Kittiwake in Grand Cayman and the MV Captain Keith Tibbetts in Cayman Brac. Kittiwake, a former submarine rescue ship will celebrate its fifth anniversary in January of 2016 and the MV Keith Captain Tibbetts, the only diveable Russian warship in the Western Hemisphere, will celebrate its 20th anniversary in September of 2016.
DEMA serves as a good launching point for the 2016 tourism season, and all indications point to a good year for Cayman’s dive industry. Keith Sahm, General Manager of Sunset House says they booked good business for next year, but much of it from long-time customers who say 2016 might be their last year in Grand Cayman.
“They love Cayman, but with the government’s decision to go ahead with the cruise ship dock that will destroy reefs in George Town, they will support other dive destinations in the future,” says Sahm. “They told me that the mindset of the people in charge is something they can’t abide. That’s going to cost us a lot in the future.”
Rosa Harris, Director, the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism (CIDOT) says they are optimistic for 2016 because the number of stay-over visitors to the Cayman Islands is up from last year. With increased airlift from key US cities and 226 additional rooms because of the reopening of a Cayman Brac resort and the addition of a new resort on Grand Cayman, Cayman is poised for growth.
“The Department of Tourism continues to work with our on-island partners through various marketing and promotion efforts to aid in the increase of stay-over arrivals, which is the mandate for the department,” says Harris. “Additionally, we launched new dive-focused social media and digital media programs in 2015 to support traditional dive marketing channels.”
The Sister Islands, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman have their own booth in the Cayman pavilion. “DEMA was great this year – it provided an opportunity to reconnect with clients and past Sister Islands dive shop personnel. New business contacts were made and at least two business operators who had not been to DEMA in a few years participated this year,” says Chevala Burke, CIDOT Marketing and Promotions Manager for the Sister Islands. “The Sister Islands Tourism Association debuted its much-anticipated Cayman Brac Shore Diving Booklet, which is now available for sale on the island. I love sharing information on our islands with people who have never been to the Caribbean or Cayman Islands before. We look forward to seeing them when they arrive on the island and making their vacation an unforgettable one.”