The Cayman Islands honored the best of the best in the tourism industry during the annual Stingray Awards gala in June. The awards were created by the Cayman Islands Tourism Association and the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism to reward outstanding work in the industry, and the recognition comes after a busy high season. All year long divemasters, concierges, beach staff, food servers, shop attendants and others do their best to make sure guests have a great time while on vacation in the Cayman Islands.
To reward them for that hard work, hoteliers, dive operators and other tourism related businesses nominate employees for the awards, and the winners are selected by committee. The winners receive a crystal stingray trophy during the celebration which has become a highlight of the year for the tourism industry, a pillar of Cayman’s economy.
Stingray Award Winners included:
· Lois Hatcher, Ocean Frontiers – Watersports Employee of the Year
· Daniel Bond, Red Sail Sports – Watersports Manager of the Year
· Betise Bodden, Sunset House – Accommodation Employee of the Year
· Pat Kenney, Tortuga Divers (Red Sail Group) – Long Service to Tourism Industry
CITA President Ken Hydes received a special Tourism Minister’s Award and owner of the Southern Cross Club on Little Cayman Peter Hillenbrand was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the industry.
“To be honored with a Life Time Achievement Award by the Cayman Islands Tourism Association and my peers in the Cayman tourism industry is an honor beyond compare,” said Hillenbrand. “There are so many people I respect and admire in Cayman’s tourism product that it is a bit humbling for them to single me out for this honor.”
After almost 30 years in the dive industry, Lois Hatcher’s passion is coral restoration. She has been involved in two major reef restoration projects in Cayman and is currently managing Ocean Frontiers’ new coral nursery.
“I feel honored that I was recognized for what we have done here and I emphasize the we,” said Hatcher. “When I came back here three years ago my goal was to get Coral Nurseries started in Cayman. So I guess, and once again there were many people involved, that is my proudest achievement.”
Pat Kenney, recognized as one of the founders of Stingray City, has also been involved in Cayman’s tourism industry for decades. Marine conservation and sustainable tourism is a priority for him, in light of development projects in the works.
“These islands, it’s people and environment have always been an easy “sell” and the main reason visitors come here,” he said. “Destroying our precious reefs and flora/fauna for cruise ships, or another golf course appear to not have the island or its inhabitants in mind.”
Sunset House General Manager Keith Sahm says Cayman’s oldest surviving resort requires a special touch to maintain, just like a classic car. Betise Bodden, recently promoted to Lead Housekeeper overseeing the overall quality and cleanliness of the property, has that special touch.
“Month after month, her work has been consistent while being exposed to the basic elements of our climate. It’s back breaking work without which no resort could remain in demand or maintain its rating on websites like Trip Advisor. We function and succeed due to the efforts of stellar employees like Betise and are proud of her accomplishments,” said Sahm. “Day after day she never complains or misses work and she sets the bar for other employees to follow. We fully appreciate her and thank her deeply for her efforts.”
Cayman’s tourism product is recognized as among the best in the Caribbean for its white sand beaches, clear blue waters, spectacular reefs, awesome marine encounters and accommodations for every budget, but everyone acknowledges that people make the difference.
“Stingray Awards are important because they recognize the passion and enthusiasm people who work in the service industry portray,” said Red Sail Sports Operations Manager Rod McDowall. “It is an opportunity to recognize both the front and back of house staff, the new to the ranks and those who have dedicated a good portion of their lives to tourism. Product in tourism is important, but the people that showcase the product more often than not are the ones that create the vacation memories of visitors.”