Jamaica makes bid for private jet business

| 21/08/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): According to the Jamaican government's informaiton service the newly opened and rebranded Ian Fleming International Airport in St. Mary could become a hub for private jets in the region. Transport minister Mike Henry has said he confident that the airport has the potential to become an important centre for providing aircraft servicing, maintenance and support services to the aeronautical industry. Representatives from Netjets, one of the world's leading aviation firms, toured the spruced up airport’s facilities last week. Henry said operating private jets was the fastest growing segment of the air transport sector.

"I am seeking to interest Netjets to look at this (facility) as an operational point, which relates to the servicing of planes and to base them…The idea is to see what the opportunities are, which fit into the training of people in the whole aeronautical industry and ties in the whole interconnected multimodal plan which we have in place,” explained the minister.

Chief Executive Officer of Netjets, Bill Noe, said that while Netjets was familiar with doing business with the two other and more established international airports in Jamaica, Ian Fleming was relatively unfamiliar. "We've had one operation into Ian Fleming over the past year. Most of our activities are into Montego Bay and Kingston. So, we want to come and look at it and explore the possibilities," he said.


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Dive agents to be tempted by Cayman’s delights

| 09/08/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA) is looking for overseas applicants for the Department of Tourism’s largest dive FAM trip in the world in November. SCUBABOWL, which is held every few years, is geared for dive travel marketing professionals who bring groups to the Cayman Islands for dive vacations. While here participants are treated to a host of experiences so they can sell the Cayman Islands with confidence. These include a combination of informative sales-focused seminars, first-hand experience of the underwater offerings of the Cayman Islands, site inspections and a variety of social networking events allows the delegates to learn about the Cayman Islands.

Held on the heels of the Dive Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA) tradeshow, which will take place in Orlando, Florida, this will be the 10th SCUBABOWL hosted in Cayman.  As a result of support from Cayman Airways and on-island partners, selected applicants pay a greatly reduced registration fee (begins at US $375 per person), which includes airline tickets from one of the Cayman Airways gateway cities, four nights accommodations from November 6-10, 2011, continental breakfasts and dinners, seminars, two days of 2-tank dives, Underwater Film Festival, International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame induction ceremony and the Farewell Party.

All applications must be received by end of business day on August 15, 2011, to be considered. Delegates are selected by the selection committee, who will make final selections by August 31, 2011. Travel to and from the preferred Cayman Airways gateway cities are the responsibility of the delegate.

While they are here delegates will enjoy the traditional SCUBABOWL agenda as well as  extras for this year which include a dive on the Kittiwake, Cayman’s newest dive site, a Lionfish hunt and cookout as well as an Underwater Film Festival with featured presenters Allan Power, Andre Laban, Howard and Michele Hall. The International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame induction ceremony with inductees
include Andre Laban, who is known for his underwater paintings, Howard and Michele Hall, who are among the top underwater film makers in the world and Clement Lee, who is being recognized for his contributions to the dive industry in southeast Asia, will also be part of this year’s travel specialists jolly.

CITA said that the farewell party will be a memorable conclusion to SCUBABOWL, as it is the launch of the Official Watch of the Kittiwake by Oris Watches. The party, sponsored by Oris and Island Companies, will be the unveiling of the prototype of this limited edition piece. Part proceeds from the sale of this watch will benefit the Kittiwake Environmental Contingency Fund.

While SCUBABOWL takes place over a three-day period, delegates are encouraged to extend their visit with add-on options to one or more of the three islands: Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac.

For further details and the SCUBABOWL application, contact CITA at or call 1-345-949-8522

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Officials deny ignoring local musicians

| 07/08/2011 | 52 Comments

(CNS): The country’s premier and minister of tourism has denied not supporting local artists and says his ministry considers entertainment and culture important elements of Cayman's tourism product. In a statement on behalf of the ministry and McKeeva Bush, the Department of Tourism rebuked comments made in the press by Jean-Eric "Notch" Smith, president of the Cayman Music and Entertainment Association about the lack of representation on the Tourism Advisory Council and other tourism related bodies of CMEA. Smith had also said that government had shown a lack of respect towards local entertainers and was not prioritising culture as part of tourism policy.

Speaking to the Caymanian Compass last month, Smith made a number of allegations about CMEA having never been placed on tourism bodies and the government’s failure to consider the importance of local entertainment.

“Every Caribbean Island under the sun has sand, sun and beach. What makes a place different is its offerings in terms of entertainment and culture, neither of which are priorities in the Cayman Islands,” Smith said. “We have young Caymanians investing in this country and going unnoticed. Many of them are making music and videos that depict the Cayman Islands and in turn promote this place on radio, the Internet, and places too numerous to mention for all of us. Yet no entity will stop and take the time to partner with them.”

The ministry denied that culture and entertainment was not an important element in tourism promotion and said it was ripe for development.

“The ministry of tourism remains open to working with performing artists and producers to ensure home-grown entertainment attains its rightful place as part of the visitor experience in the Cayman Islands,” the statement read. It added that the department of tourism had supported CMEA by providing assistance for the development of a website to promote its aims and objectivesand bring greater visibility of their membership to a wider audience and had sponsored the annual Musaic event.

Where possible, it said, the DoT had provided airline tickets to CMEA performers to export local talent and assist Caymanian artistes to gain international exposure.

The ministry didn’t deny that CMEA was not represented directly on any tourism board. It acknowledged that TAC members are appointed by the Governor-in-Cabinet on the advice of the tourism minister and that most of them are Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA) members. However, it denied that they were all food and beverage purveyors, as claimed by Smith. The ministry said some members came from the water sports, events and wedding, hotel and attractions sectors, as well as a marketing consultant.

“The fact of the matter is that CITA's membership is representative of Cayman's tourism industry sectors; therefore it follows that a majority of the TAC membership would be comprised of CITA members. Nevertheless, membership on TAC has much more to do with years of tourism experience than it does the sector in which a member works,” the MoT stated.

Officials also said that Smith had implied the ministry could prescribe that live music must be played at hotels and other establishments, but the statement noted that this was not possible as private business should decide what entertainment it offers customers. However, what Smith had actually said was that hotels did not consider the concept of live local music as a priority, which was evidenced by the fact that not one of them had facilities to accommodate live music.

“We are always an after-thought,” he said. “That is why we have ivory tower hotels that are not equipped with one bandstand. It’s because musicians and entertainers do not have a say when decision, policies, standards and laws are being made that will ultimately affect them.”

The ministry also denied accusations made by Smith that the reason there is no Cayman Jazz Festival now is because CMEA is not represented on the TAC. It said that Bush along with the acting chief officer of tourism had met with Smith and other CMEA representatives last year, when Smith had undertaken to write a letter to the premier giving input on the jazz festival and a review of CMEA's constitution.

“The understanding was that the purpose of the letter they were to submit went beyond the specific points mentioned,” the ministry said. “It was to show seriousness of purpose on their part, as they had made an approach for a more active and meaningful partnership with government, and were told that a letter from them could serve as the beginning of a more serious relationship.  To date, no such letter has been received from CMEA.”

However, Smith noted the continued lack of representation of CMEA on boards and in policy decisions, despite his advice that musicians should not always be considered after the fact. He said government’s attitude towards local musicians was an indictment on its priorities when it came to local entertainers.

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New York kids get a breath of fresh Caribbean air

| 28/07/2011 | 5 Comments

(CNS): Ten youngsters from the Big Apple are enjoying a week in Grand Cayman thanks to an independent non-profit organisation that provides children from New York City with free summer vacations that will enable them to experience new environments and cultures. The Fresh Air Fund (FAF) kids arrived on Grand Cayman Monday 25 July and are staying with host families on the island. Before they leave on Sunday they will be visiting various tourist attractions and will be involved in various activities. The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism and Cayman Airways partnered with FAF in 2007, with the goal of supporting a charity that Caymanians could have an affiliation with. 

In 2010, FAF hosted five Caymanian children between ages 10 and 12 at their camps in Fishkill, New York. The kids were selected on the basis of good academic achievement, involvement in extra-curricular activities in their schools and communities, along with positive attitude and willingness to apply themselves.

During their trip on Grand Cayman, the FAF kids group have learnt about the local environment at the Ambassadors of the Environment programme at the Grand Cayman Ritz-Carlton Hotel and toured the Stingray Sandbar. On 27 July the group attended a presentation by Cayman Traditional Arts, toured the Cayman Turtle Farm and visited the Black Pearl Skate Park.

The rest of the week will be filled with a tour Pedro St. James Castle, a visit to the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park and Blue Iguana Sanctuary, a presentation by the National Trust for the Cayman Islands, a tour the Cayman Islands National Museum, plus a tour on the Atlantis Submarine, followed by a farewell dinner at the Wharf Restaurant.


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Film commission focuses in on festival

| 26/07/2011 | 29 Comments

(CNS): Grand Cayman may have its very own film festival in the not too distant future following the first steps by the Cayman Islands Film Commission to seek out proposals for producing the event. In a release about the terms of reference for interested parties by the commission on Monday officials said the goal was to promote the local film commission and the potential industryand raise awareness of the Cayman Islands’ potential as host to film and television projects. The concept of a film festival is a new area for the Cayman Islands and the commission said it hopes to follow in the steps of successful festivals around the world from Cannes to New Zealand.

“Through hosting this type of event the Cayman Islands will have a presence in an unexpected realm of engagement,” the film commission which is part of the department of commerce stated in the terms of reference which are now available.  “There is great value in this event, as it will ultimately drive visitation, which is the Department of Tourism’s top strategic objective.

The commission said it has collaborated with key stakeholders including the tourism department and Camana Bay in an effort to establish a joint approach.

“The potential in this event concept will allow the Cayman Islands to engage an affluent market of director, producers, actors and the like,” the commission stated. “In anticipation of the Film Festival growth, as with Camana Bay, DOT would focus on the event to generate and increase brand awareness which is the second priority for the Tourism Department.”

The Cayman Islands Film Commission (CIFC) was established in January 2009 to promote and develop a local film industry. As a government agency, it promotes the Cayman Islands as a prime location for film, television, music video, and advertising productions, and facilitates these productions with every aspect of production from development and pre-production through post-production. 
The CIFC acts as a liaison between film makers and local government agencies. It works to build capacity in the local entertainment community to create opportunities for Caymanians to write, produce, direct, and possibly finance their own projects entirely within the Cayman Islands.  Through an educational programme, locals are trained to aide incoming producers, studios,and productions as a whole.

So far the Cayman Islands has been the location of a around two dozen movies, short films and TV shows including the blockbuster The Firm, as well as home grown director Frankie Flowers’ Haven and of course who could forget the celluloid masterpiece that was The Cayman Triangle.

People interested in submitting proposals can read the full terms of reference below

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Cruise ship pulls up to George Town dock

| 22/07/2011 | 9 Comments

(CNS): Passengers on the Adriana, which called into George Town Thursday, enjoyed the unique experience of disembarking straight on to the dock as the small cruise ship was able to berth at the South pier. The ship, which arrived around 8am in the morning and left in the evening, brought 270 passengers who were able to walk off the ship. At only 4,490 tons and with the right size draft, the little cruise ship was able to berth as oppose to anchor out in the harbour. The ship was dwarfed by the Carnival Conquest, which was also in port in Thursday. By comparison that ship carries some 2974 passengers and has a tonnage of gross tonnage of 110,239. (Photos Dennie Warren Jr)

In turn the Conquest is now dwarfed by the introduction of the generation of mega cruise ships now sailing the oceans. Royal Caribbean’s Genesis carries 5,400 passengers and weighs around 220,000 tons.

It is the move by the cruise industry to using ever more enormous ships in the Caribbean region that is driving the desire by local tour operators and the government to develop cruise berthing facilities in George Town that can accommodate these ocean going giants.

The Adriana which was originally built in Greece in the 1970s is a dying breed among ocean liners. The ship normally sails in the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas but does the occasional tour of the Caribbean.


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Tourism body offers backing to Dart plans

| 21/07/2011 | 22 Comments

(CNS): The directors of the country’s private sector tourism body have thrown their support behind the recent agreement between the Cayman government and the Dart group. CITA said that its board directors recently met with a Dart representative regarding the 'FORCayman Investment Alliance' and spent some time asking questions and discussing the various proposals that form part of the investment deal and land swap with government. The CITA directors were particularly supportive of Dart’s plans for the landfill and its goal to redevelop the derelict Courtyard Marriot into a four or five star resort as they said these would both provide a boost to the tourism product.

“Overall CITA was pleased to hear that Dart has offered a solution for two of the top issues that have been previously identified by CITA as critical success factors for the tourism industry,” the CITA directors stated in a release on Wednesday.

“CITA has stated publicly over the last three years that the landfill and lack of solution to manage Cayman's solid waste is detrimental to Cayman's tourism product. Not only is our main asset at risk, the natural environment, but the negative impression that the dump has on guests is also damaging to the reputation of the Cayman Islands as a leading tourism destination.”

The directors said the development of a new land fill inclusive of the facilities to accommodate recycling would be a major benefit to all residents and tourists.

“This project will provide the infrastructure to start an island wide recycling program which is a seen as a top priority by the Cayman Islands Tourism Association. As an industry the members are eager to support such a programme that would mitigate the effects of solid waste created and look forward to being a part of the solution,” officials from CITA added.

However, Dart has not yet made it clear what will be happening with the new landfill which is said proposed to be developed at a new site in the Midland Acre area of Bodden Town. The firm has stated it will not be managing Caymans solid waste issue but will merely be providing the land and basic infrastructure for the site.  There is still no confirmation from the ministry what will happen to Wheelabrator the US based firm which won the original bid to operate and manage the country’s waste system.

This included mining the current landfill and converting that waste in to energy which was to be sold to CUC.  Without the actual dump in the package it is not clear whether the US firm will be taking on the waste management under the new arrangements or whether the Department of Environmental Health will take on the management of the new landfill once it’s ready for use.

Aside from throwing its support behind the plans for Dart to take care of the dump CITA also offered its support for Dart to redevelop the Courtyard Marriot as the directors said the tourism body has been urging government for some time to do all it can to address the issue of derelict tourist properties.

Officials said members were pleased to see that Dart would be redeveloping the site into something that is expected to enhance the Cayman Islands tourism product. Despite some controversy in the wider community about the movement of the West Bay Road the CITA directors offered their support.

“The changes to West Bay Road in relation to the development are positive for both enhanced residential use and tourism, in so far as creating an improved and expanded public beach and a second beach on the northern side on West Bay road,” it added.

The body also welcomed the news that Barkers would be preserved as a National Park which it said would also benefit the overall tourism product but noted that there was a pressing need to implement the National Conservation Law but the zoning was a step in the right direction.

The directors said that they had put several questions to the Dart representative regarding fair competitive business practice for all members in the future and said they are now waiting for a response

“Overall Dart has a good proven track record for creating developments that promote economic growth and stability as well as improving the overall tourism product which CITA feels goes a long way when considering future proposals,” CITA added as it gave its backing for the overall plans for the alliance.

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Russian Frigate photo competition underway

| 20/07/2011 | 1 Comment

(CNS): With the 15th anniversary of the M.V. Capt. K.P. Tibbetts coming this September, the Sister Islands Tourism Association (SITA) has launched a photography competition for photos of the deliberately sunken frigate. The competition is open to non-professional photographers who are not residents of the Cayman Islands and runs to 30 August. The M.V. Capt. K.P. Tibbetts was built in the Soviet Union in 1984 for the Cuban Navy. It was purchased and sunk by the Cayman Islands Government in September 1996 and rechristened M.V. Capt. K.P. Tibbetts, after a Cayman Brac politician. The frigate has now become a major dive site on Cayman Brac and has become popular with divers that visit the island.

The grand prize winner of the photo contest will receive free airfare from Cayman Airways, a 7-night stay at Brac Reef Beach Resort with daily breakfast, lunch and dinner, six days of 2-tank diving at Reef Divers and airport ground transfers. The grand prize winner will also receive free admission into the Brac Bash cook-off and become an official judge for the event. 

The annual celebration of the sinking, the Brac Bash, first started in 1996 and is spearheaded by SITA. Marketing and Promotions Manager for Cayman Brac District Administration, Chevala Burke, said that the final details for this year's Bash, scheduled for 30 September to 2 October, have not yet been finalised.

There is no format specified for the photos submitted. Entries for the competition should be sent to

See the flyer for the competition below.

Joshua Dilbert is a CNS summer intern.

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Preparations begin for Cayman’s food festival

| 14/07/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Although the Taste of Cayman food festival is more than six months away the Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA) is beginning the work to pull the culinary event together. The 24th Annual Taste of Cayman is set for Saturday, 28 January 28 and organizers expect more than 4000 people to be sampling food from more than 35 of the Island’s hottest restaurants. “Each year, the event grows and changes to reflect the direction we are moving,” says Trina Savage-Christian, executive director of CITA. “We are excited to be able to put on such a wonderful event that is one of the largest and best food and wine experiences in the Caribbean.”

Taste of Cayman now forms part of a full culinary month which includes Cayman Cookout and CITA is also looking for restaurants and event coordinators who are interested in hosting a culinary event any time in 2012. The Taste of Cayman festival is a key element of the month long celebration of food and has gone from strength to strength since it started as a very humble affair in the 1980s

Savage-Christian said the event’s success was down to the efforts of the contributors and their ideas and exciting developments. There are many opportunities for local residents and companies to be a part of this event and sponsorship starts at CI $500 with a ‘Sugar Bowl’ level sponsorship, moving to Bronze Fork, Silver Spoon and Golden Fork. The Planning Committee has some new sponsorship opportunities this year, all of which add value to the entry ticket for adults attending the festival.

While the association is not actively recruiting volunteers yet the Planning Committee is eager to start a data base of people who are interested in volunteering their time for the Festival. Each year, several hundred volunteers are needed to ensure that the event runs smoothly.

Volunteers assist with festival preparation in the weeks leading up to Taste of Cayman, as well as on-the-day volunteering followed by help with some of the labour intensive wrap up of the event in the weeks after the Festival.

“It is because of the generosity of our community, from the corporations to the volunteering of time and energy, to the thousands of people that attend the event, that we are able to produce such a world class event each year,” Savage-Christian added.

Those interested in sponsoring items such as a reusable Bambu spork (which will be given to each attendee for use when sampling food items), wine glass lanyards, wine glasses, a lionfish cooking demonstration component and the festival entertainment, to name a few, are encouraged to contact CITA at 949-8522

Contact CITA at or 949-8522 to register your name on the volunteer list.


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GLF plans legal action

| 11/07/2011 | 59 Comments

(CNS): After several weeks of speculation that the company which had been involved in exclusive talks with government to build cruise berthing facilities was going to take legal action, GLF released a statement at the weekend signalling its intention to protect its interests through the courts. The Italian based firm, which partnered with Royal Construction, said statements made by government officials “relating to GLF’s failure to comply with any part of the Framework Agreement …were inaccurate and misleading,” and accused the government of not only breaching its contractual relationship but also damaging its reputation. 

The firm had been in exclusive talks with government over the construction of two piers and an up-land development to support cruise berthing but the talks were ended by the premier, McKeeva Bush, in April when he wrote to CEO Francesco Senis terminating the negotiations because he said GLF had not shown it had the money.

The premier’s letter was in response to a request by Senis in April for a final agreement with government as the firm said it was ready to mobilize within six weeks. However, Bush wrote stating that the Cayman Islands Government did not consider it had proof of the necessary financing to warrant the signing of a master agreement. As a result, he said, government, in agreement with the Port Authority chairman, was terminating the framework agreement which had been signed on December 2010.

It has since emerged, however, that the Port Authority board was not consulted about the decision until after it was made and it appears, given the recent resignation or removal of the port chair, Stefan Baraud, that he had not agreed to the termination.

It became clear after Bush sent the letter to Senis that the government had decided to work with the Chinese firm China Harbour Engineering Company, with which the premier signed a ‘ministerial’ MOU last month that does not yet include the Port Authority. Several new members have now been appointed to the board, however, including John Henry, the new chairman, and Nick Freeland, who confirmed he had accepted the request last week. Local attorney Anthony Akiwumi was also asked to serve on the board but CNS has been unable to confirm whether he has agreed to join the board.

Bush had made it clear earlier in his administration that he would change board memberships wherever the directors did not support his decisions or policies. In this case, the resignations and removals and the lack of support for the premier may have much to do with the liability the board members could face when GLF files suit.

According to the framework agreement, which was signed between GLF, government and the Aort Authority, the exclusive talks were for four months with an additional two month period if neither party had given notice to terminate before the first four months ended. It also required a ten day notice period from any of the parties who wished to pull out of the deal. Bush wrote to Senis on 14 April, four months to the day from the start of the deal on 14 December 2010, to terminate the exclusive talks, as he said he was pursuing other options.

In this weekend’s statement, Senis said that GLF had “fully complied with all requirements of the Framework Agreement, including but not limited to funding of the project, maximum utilization of local resources and the creation of a commercial retail area to be maintained by the Port Authority.”

A local spokesperson said that the legal documents were expected to be filed in the courts this week.

"We can only express our disappointment that this matter has reached this point but have only the utmost respect for GLF which has surprised us with the patience they have exhibited under very difficult circumstances," Howard Finlason, Managing Director of Royal Construction Ltd said.

"Most companies would have gone to litigation much sooner but this was not  GLF’s desire, they wanted only to build the Port they designed for the people of the Cayman Islands. It is only after exhausting every avenue that they have been forced to resort to this. It only goes to reinforce the integrity of this world class firm which spent millions on our behalf only to be thrown to the curb in a most disrespectful and unceremonious manner," he told CNS.

The decision of government to work with CHEC has raised further questions in the community as a result of a number of accusations made about the firm in other jurisdictions.

Leader of the Opposition Alden McLaughlin said the recent revelations that it paid bribes to the former Bangladesh premier’s son Khaleda Zia for assistance with government contracts is of significant concern. Questions have also been asked about the firm and the work it is currently doing in Jamaica.

It is not yet clear how the decision to work with the Chinese firm fits with the government’s own procurement process. In the first instance the cruise port development had gone through central tendering and been awarded to Dart. Thereafter, talks between Dart and government collapsed when the parties could not agree on the length of the lease period to Dart for the upland development area. GLF was the second choice of the technical committee recommended to the Central Tenders Committee. It is understood that CHEC was not on the short list of the preferred bidders reviewed by the CTC.

The premier has defended his decision to begin talks with CHEC as he said the firm not only had the finances to build the cruise port it had also agreed to construct a cruise pier at the Turtle Farm in West Bay and to renovate the jetty at Spotts, the back-up dock used when the weather in George Town is too rough for the tenders to operate. The premier said work at Spotts was due to commence this month and CHEC had advanced $3 million to government for that work, which will be paid back to the company from public money if it fails to reach agreement with the government on the main project.

The statement from Senis in full reads: “Further to recent publications by local news regarding the development of the George Town Port Expansion, GLF wishes to confirm that they have fully complied with all requirements of the Framework Agreement, including but not limited to funding of the project, maximum utilization of local resources and the creation of a commercial retail area to be maintained by the Port Authority.

“As such, statements and interviews recently released by Government Officials relating to GLF’s failure to comply with any part of the Framework Agreement are not only inaccurate and misleading, but constitute a serious breach of the contractual relationship and damaging to GLF’s reputation. The Law firm of Browne Jacobson will assist GLF in defending and protecting their rights and interests as permitted by Law.”

See Framework agreement with GLF here
See CHEC MOU here
See correspondence between GLF and premier here

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