GEORGE TOWN, Grand Cayman -- What a difference a year makes.

At last years annual Cayman Islands Tourism Exchange, the buzzwords were recovery, repair and rebuild from the devastation left behind by Hurricane Ivan, a Category 5 storm that hit the islands in September 2004.

But at the recent CITE held on Grand Cayman, the buzz was all about resurgence, redevelopment and renewal.

The public and private sectors worked closely together in the past year with much progress to report, but a strong and sustained second year is needed, said Charles Clifford, minister of tourism, who outlined a score of initiatives to achieve a return to the pre-Ivan visitor levels of 2004.

These included Summer Splash, a vacation program with discounts and features aimed at the family market; an expanded agent fam program; a new Go East initiative to develop the tourism product on the east side of Grand Cayman as well as on the Sister Islands of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman; a push to raise the quality of customer service; and a major airport redevelopment project beginning with a new passenger terminal facility.

Room stock on Grand Cayman is nearing full strength, according to Pilar Bush, director of tourism.

The total pre-Ivan room inventory on all three islands was 5,181. As of mid-April, there were 3,794 rooms.

Not planning to reopen on Grand Cayman are Indies Suites, Seaview Hotel, Treasure Island Resort, North Point Condos, Victoria House, Beachcomber Condominiums, Cayman Club, Turtle Beach, Tarquynn Manor and 35 guest houses.

The Hyatt Regency has not yet reopened, pending issues of ownership and insurance payments, but Bush said that an announcement was expected soon that could lead to a decision regarding a reopening date.

In addition, new construction on Grand Cayman includes 277 hotel rooms, 648 units in condominiums and apartments and 61 rooms in guesthouses.

Airlift, too, is at or near the pre-Ivan levels. In December, the islands welcomed 71 weekly flights with 9,105 seats, not including Spirits seven weekly flights from Fort Lauderdale and Americans one additional flight five days a week.

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].

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