Archive for February 14th, 2010

Cayman Brac back on track

| 14/02/2010 | 19 Comments

(CNS): With the reopening of the Brac Reef Beach Resort, which was reduced to a pile of dust and rubble by Hurricane Paloma in November 2008, Cayman Brac now has two operational hotels for the first time since Divi Tiara shut down in September 2006, and with 125 additional rooms at Carib Sands and Brac Caribbean condominiums expected to become available in a few months, MLA and President of the Sister Islands Tourism Association (SITA), Moses Kirkconnell, said there were enough rooms now to get better airlift for Cayman Brac. (Left: Linton Tibbetts and resort manager Trudy Viers officially re-open the Brac Reef)

Linton Tibbetts, who built the first Brac Reef Hotel in the mid 1970s (which was later sold to the Divi Corporation) and the Brac Reef in its current location in 1987, was also insistent that it should be rebuilt after its total destruction on 8 November 2008. “We wanted it to be done well,” he told CNS about his reinvestment into the Brac. “We can’t give up on this island and somebody’s got to do it.” On Saturday, 13 February, he and the resort’s general manager, Trudy Viers, cut the ribbon at a ceremony outside the new lobby to officially re-open the resort.

Cayman Islands News, Cayman Brac heradline news, Brac Reef Beach Resort

While the Brac Reef has received some guests since 5 December 2009, the 9,000 square foot main hotel area, which sits on the footprint of the old building and includes the lobby, offices, spa, boutique and gym, was completed only a week ago. As well as the buffet dining room, The Royal Palms, and the porch dining area, the Tibbetts family has included a fine dining room, The Grand Palm, to upgrade the hotel, and will also offer a bar and room service menus. A guest room with games and television has been added, which Viers said had been requested by guests, and there is free internet access throughout the resort. (The new Brac Reef front entrace above and the same spot right after Paloma below)

Cayman Islands News, Cayman Brac headline news, Brac Reef Beach ResortThe 40 rooms of the resort, which had to be completely refurbished after the storm, now require the electronic door key to activate the air-conditioning in order to conserve energy. Ten rooms have also been upgraded to junior suites.

As partners with the Dive Pirates Foundation, a Texas-based non-profit organization that brings disabled divers to the Brac each year, the re-built Brac Reef has 3 rooms that are fully wheelchair accessible from the poolside, with all furniture, fixtures and fittings designed to accommodate wheelchairs. Boardwalks in the old property have been replaced with wheelchair-friendly concrete walkways.

Last year, even though the resort was still in the construction process, the Dive Pirates made their annual trip, this time with 63 divers, 15 of whom were divers with disabilities. The group stayed at the new Alexander Hotel and at Breakers condominiums and dived with the Brac Reef’s dive operation, Reef Divers, where all dive staff are certified SSI Adaptive Specialty Instructors. In June this year the Pirates are returning with 86 people – which will take up the entire hotel – for one week, and may make two trips in 2011 if funds allow.

Cayman Islands News, Cayman Brac headline news, Brac Reef Beach ResortWhile the Brac Reef’s efforts to accommodate adaptive divers had been driven by their association with the Dive Pirates, Viers said they were also beginning to get other disabled guests who had heard of them through the DPF. (Left: the rooms get a new look)

Linton Tibbetts’ grandson, Kyle Hooker, who oversaw the rebuilding of the Brac Reef as the family’s representative on the ground, said it was very unfortunately that so many people had been without work for so long, but he said, “We now have a brand new building, which is beautiful and has totally changed the resort.”

Repairs to the Carib Sands Condominiums phases 1 and 2, which were severely damaged during the hurricane, willbe completed in early March and the new phase 3 will be finished in early April, while the Brac Caribbean is set for reopening in June, according to Kirkconnell, who is general manager of the condominiums.

Cayman Islands News, Cayman Brac headline news, Brac Reef Beach ResortWhile the Sister Islands MLA said he is optimistic about the tourism product with all the accommodation coming back on line, he said that presently the Cayman Brac Power and Light Company, of which he is a board member, is reporting 20% less electricity usage than before Paloma, which Kirkconnell said was a mix of both residential use – people who left and did not return – and commercial use, and a result of the general economic decline. (Left: standing in the lobby after the storm)

However, with the two hotels and the completion or repair of the condominiums and construction of new buildings, Kirkconnell said he was sure tourism, and therefore the economy of the Brac, would improve. As SITA president he said, “It’s our job to work to work with Cayman Airways to get better airlift for the islands.”

Viers noted that it was good for the entire island that the tourism accommodation, both new and repaired, was picking up. “Cayman Brac needs all accommodation and the support of Cayman Airways to get all our people back to work and to thrive again,” she said.

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Author Dick Francis dies aged 89

| 14/02/2010 | 9 Comments

Cayman Islands news, World News, Dick Francis(BBC): Writer Dick Francis, famous for his horse racing-based crime novels, has died aged 89, his family has said. Francis, who wrote some 40 best-selling novels during his career, was also a champion jockey in the 1940s and 50s and the Queen Mother’s jockey. He first published his autobiography in 1957, and his first thriller, Dead Cert, followed five years later. Francis’s most recent works, Dead Heat and Silks, were co-authored by his son Felix. He spent his final years in retirement in the Cayman Islands and his family said he "died of old age". A private funeral is due to be held in the Caribbean with a memorial service in London at a later stage, a spokesman added.

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