Industry employees and professionals recognized for their contributions at the 2017 Cayman Islands Tourism Association Stingray Awards
The dive industry workers who keep Cayman’s dive product at the top and make it a model for other destinations, were honored and recognized for their work at the 14th Annual Stingray Tourism Awards on June 20, 2017 at the Kimpton Seafire Resort & Spa in Grand Cayman. The annual ceremony is hosted by the Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA) which hands out hand blown glass stingrays to the winners in 12 categories; accommodations, watersports, restaurants, attractions and transportation. CITA also hands out a Rising Star Award to a newcomer who shows promise, the Diamond Award is given to an industry veteran who has been in hospitality for long service, and a special Lifetime Achievement Award is also awarded.
A great Cayman dive experience begins with the helpful reservation agent or hotel concierge who takes the booking; it continues with the friendly staff at the dive shop when a customer checks in; and it culminates with the professional divemaster who greets them at the dive boat and takes the guest on an unforgettable dive. These are the front-line employees a diver encounters during their Cayman vacation, but there is a whole team of other employees in each dive company working hard to make Cayman’s dive product one of the best – from the watersports employees on the beach, to the mechanics who keep the dive boats in good working condition, to the managers who make the whole operation run.
Eleven Red Sail Sports employees were nominated for Stingray Awards. Penny Williams took home the stingray for Watersports Manager of the Year and Orland Thomas won Watersports Employee of the Year.
“I am truly thrilled to receive this Award. It means a lot to me to be recognized,” said Penny Williams, Red Sail Sports Concierge Manager. “I have seen Cayman’s tourist industry, and Red Sail Sports, develop and grow in the 25 years I have been on the island, and it has been fabulous to be a part of that growth. I have really enjoyed the journey, from my early days working on the dive boats, all the way through to managing the concierge team. I look forward to many more years in the future.”
Orland Thomas is a mechanic who helps to maintain the massive amount of equipment Red Sail Sports needs to operate; 7 dive boats, 5 catamarans, 6 power boats, 40 wave runners and 13 vehicles. Operations Manager Rod McDowall says they would be lost without Thomas and other mechanics who are on call 7 days a week.
“Orland’s skill level is very high and his attitude and competency are unmatched,” said McDowall. “He is extremely calm and unflappable as well as being able to turn his hand to pretty much everything. He has become particularly skilled in boat painting, primarily the quality finished required to make the catamarans ‘shine’ and maintain their quality look.”
Three young Caymanians on the Red Sail team, Charles Bush, Lej Battiste and Frank Rivers Morales were also nominated as “Rising Stars.” Southern Cross Club General Manager Jennifer Mills won the Stingray for Accommodations Manager of the Year and Sunset House General Manager Keith Sahm was recognized for long service to tourism with the Diamond Award. Dive pioneer Peter Milburn received a Lifetime Achievement Award.
“It’s a labor of love all these years, and I was glad to have the chance to say that we must take care of our marine environment for future generations, as that is the key to Caymans Tourism success,” said Mr. Milburn.
“Peter Milburn’s Lifetime Achievement award was very well deserved,” said Red Sail Sports General Manager Rod McDowall. “Not only has he made a career of working in the dive industry, but he has maintained a genuine concern for the protection of the marine environment and has been a vocal advocate in that area all his life. Peter keeps government officials on track and his contributions have been of great benefit to the Cayman community,”
“I was very humbled to be surrounded with so many caring people dedicating their lives to tourism, from executive chefs, to amazing award winning bartenders, housekeeping staff and always my favorite, dive and watersports gurus,” said Keith Sahm of his Diamond Award. “It was also an honor to share the stage with Peter Milburn who is an icon here in the Cayman Islands.”
Nominations for the awards are made by companies who want to recognize their employees and backed up with information. A select committee picks the winners who receive their awards during the star-studded gala which has become an event the tourism industry looks forward to every year. Cayman’s top dive operators, Red Sail Sports, Sunset House, Divetech, Ocean Frontiers and the Southern Cross Club are all active members of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association and are in full support of CITA’s Stingray Awards.
Southern Cross Club Administrations Manager Neil van Niekerk sums it up: “The Cayman Islands leads the dive industry and is dedicated to bringing dive standards to the highest level. We believe that partner leadership plays a critical role in this steady advancement.”