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2021 CITA President's Report

3 December 2021
2021 CITA President's Report

Dear Members,

I have been honored to serve as your President for the past year and grateful for the confidence you have placed in me and can promise that I have done my best to represent you and our industry. While I knew the task was going to be challenging, nothing could have prepared me, or the Board of Directors, for the journey ahead and the hurdles we faced. A year ago, it seemed unimaginable that our borders would be closed for another full year.

Despite the tremendous obstacles we have faced, I am very proud of the diligent efforts of the CITA BOD. We have been in the trenches together to defend your livelihoods and the future of our Islands. We spoke up, asked tough questions, and challenged the status quo, but only after careful research and vigorous internal debate. We learned hard lessons about the political process – particularly as it pertains to an election year. We didn’t just criticize, but instead proposed proactive and rational solutions, pushing policy makers to think outside of their ministry silos to collaborate. We aimed to speak truth to dispel fear and emotion. In everything, we strived to relentlessly represent you.

I will spare you the details of all the specific actions and meetings we held in the last year, as we made great effort to keep you regularly informed along the way at the multiple “extraordinary” general meetings and sector meetings. However, I would like to remind you about the critical priorities that the newly elected board established and shared with our CITA membership in December 2020:

We took every opportunity to present these priorities along with constructive recommendations to members of the Government and the Civil Service including to the Program Board in February 2021, the previous elected Government in March 2021 and the newly elected PACT Government in May 2021. You will note that the same priorities for CITA remain today.

While there has been progress with the Phase 4 border reopening on November 20, we have been frustrated on many fronts. Yet we remain resolute – as we have no other choice. As an organization, we learned how to better make our voices heard by leveraging various media outlets and innumerable meetings with Government and community leaders. In the process, our association was strengthened, demonstrating the relevancy and power of our membership and gaining the respect and support of many. However, we must also acknowledge that criticism from others in the community who did not share or understand our views and our direct approach. I can honestly say that throughout the tumultuousness of this past year we have kept our heads up with the confidence that we are doing everything we can to serve you.

On a personal level, I must admit I learned a lot a lot over the past year, some valuable lessons but also some sad realities I wish did not exist.

? I learned in more depth about the various constituents within the Cayman Islands tourism industry and their critical roles in our destination

? I learned how to collaborate more effectively with others

? I learned about the importance of communication during moments of crisis, adapting and reinventing to improve effectiveness

? I learned to listen better and to be patient, a virtue that does not come easily for me

I also unfortunately learned how political priorities can impact a Government’s ability to lead effectively through a crisis. In turned, I gained insight into the systemic lack of understanding and trust of our industry from within the Government and broader community.

While the phase 4 reopening is far from perfect, we need to appreciate the moment and also acknowledge that we influenced several critical items for our reopening:

• Determination of a credible opening date

• Collaboration with CIG in developing protocols supporting the reopening

• Removal of the QR code certification restriction for vaccine verification

• Modifying the regime of the LFT ( 2-5-10) testing for arriving passengers

• Removing the regulation on employee LFT testing obligations

• Pushing for an enlargement of allowable group size for events

• Collaboration with Cayman Airways to add more flights • Review of the PCR testing sensitivity

The journey to recovery is not over, and the road ahead will certainly bring more challenges and more time together in the trenches. In the immediate, we need to address promptly the key priorities issues critical for our recovery in the next phase:

1) We will need to emphasize with the CIG the importance of communicating urgently the conditions to move to phase 5, the key elements and a credible target date necessary for all stakeholders to prepare and communicate.

2) We must continue to share that tourism will not return to a substantial level until we a. Allow unvaccinated visitor children to travel with their parents without quarantine b. Reduce the regime of lateral flow tests for visitors c. Simplify and expedite the travel authorization process

3) We will need to address urgently the shortage in Tourism workers, especially in food and beverage positions, recreation and diving operations and getting the support of the WORC and the CIG to develop fast track access to work permit to ensure we are not limited in our recovery effort.

4) We will need to address the shortage in air arrival capacity, and continue our collaboration with Cayman Airways and the Airport Authority to compensate for the loss of flights from the major US carriers.

5) We will need to regain the trust of our business partners, airlines, travel advisors and meeting planners, working collaboratively and cohesively by partnering with the DOT to develop a targeted and effective sales and marketing communication strategy.

6) We will need to support the return of cruise ship tourism, and participate in the revision and repositioning of this important industry.

7) We will need to continue our participation in task force to support the CIG in the continuous review and adopt the most relevant protocols and regulation through the upcoming phases of reopening.

8) We need continue lobbying the CIG for a review of the current PCR testing standard and quarantine policies which are currently creating undue economic and mental hardship on so many families and businesses.

9) Finally, but no less importantly, we will need to lobby the CIG for financial support and relief in the form of CIG fee reductions, stipends, grants, and loans to allow our businesses to rebuild.

Longer term, we aim to:

? Establish a long-needed hospitality school to address the need for quality trained employees for all sectors of the tourism industry

? Revisit the vision of the Caymanian Tourism Brand and Products.

? Educate our Government and Community about the specificities of our industry and obtain better understanding and support.

Luckily in my role, I was blessed to be supported by a dedicated Board who demonstrated exceptional commitment, worked tirelessly responding to last-minute requests for meetings or information, and ensured the interest of their respective sectors were represented, bringing diverse perspectives, and strengthening the value of our Association.

I would like to also thank CITA members such as Troy Leacock, Jim Leavitt and others who complemented our efforts, directly or indirectly, by leveraging their influence.

I especially would like to thank the Executive team, our Vice-President Michael Tibbetts, our Treasurer Markus Mueri, our Secretary Natalie Porter, and our Past-President Theresa Broderick, whose respective contributions were so instrumental, continuously supporting me with expertise and guidance, bringing different perspectives and challenging my stubbornness at times.

And finally, I would like to acknowledge the instrumental role of Jay Ehrhart, our Executive Director, who kept the organization working without administrative support, without an office and with minimal funding.

My mandate as President allows me to continue leading the Association for another year.

I am committed to serve you to the best of my ability, but as I will also need to spend more time to support the recovery process of my own business, I will ask you all to be more involved.

It is my genuine desire to see each sector become more independent with strong voices to represent the various interests, while also finding points of agreement with the broader business community.

Our journey to recovery will be long and paved with many expected and unexpected challenges, yet I am confident that working together will allow us to come out stronger. 

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