Grand Cayman (09/12/12) - Several times a week, three children with special needs from the Lighthouse School are mounted on gentle horses at the Equestrian Centre on Linford Pierson Highway for therapeutic riding sessions, or equine therapy. During equine therapy the body of the child moves in a way that is similar to human walking; the horse moves rhythmically up and down; side to side; and back and forth in repetitive patterns. This movement improves the rider’s balance, muscle tone, and head and neck control. The children with autism are responding well to the therapy and enjoying time with their new four-legged friends.
“It calms them, helps them to follow direction, helps their posture and it builds their self-confidence,” said Olga Gourzong Deputy Principal of the Lighthouse School.
The kids are receiving this therapy through sponsorships by the Red Sail Group, affiliated companies under one umbrella. They include Red Sail Sports, The Rum Point Restaurant, Tortuga Divers, Caymed Plus, BBP Insurance, La Mer Spa and The Shops of Red Sail. Red Sail Sports has long been an advocate and supporter of the Lighthouse School, but Operations Manager Rod McDowall says as a group they can do more to help.
Olga Gourzong says that at CI $25 per student per riding session, the school cannot afford to pay for long-term horse therapy. If Red Sail had not stepped in to help, the children with autism would have had to do without this therapy from October through December.
“Red Sail is always a phone call away and they rescue us whenever all other doors are closed,” she said.
“The owners of the Red Sail Group of companies are happy we are in a position to make a small difference in the lives of these children,” replied Rod McDowall. The Group is also sponsoring daily meals for Lighthouse students whose families are unable to pay because of economic or social family issues.
What other things does Red Sail do to help the Lighthouse School?
“Too numerous to mention,” says Gourzong, but lists the following things the company does to help: sponsors students on overseas trips, donates uniforms; donates prizes; sponsors school lunches and snacks; donates funds to help buy school supplies; advocates for the Lighthouse School in the community and often acts as the school’s voice.
This type of assistance from the business community is vital for the school said the Deputy Principal of the Lighthouse School. Ideally she would like see other companies step up to help and follow the Red Sail Group’s example.
“This kind of support is important for the Lighthouse School because providing children with special needs with the different therapies and services is very costly, so community based organizations are a big help to us,” said Gourzong. “Most of our students are from families who are from very low socio economic backgrounds, so getting support from companies like the Red Sail Group improves our students quality of life immensely.”
“The decision to form the Red Sail Group was to combine our ability to more effectively promote each company every time we sponsored or donated to the community,” said Rod McDowall. “Also we believe we can make a more significant and impactful contribution to local community charities we select, be they the Special Olympics, the Lighthouse School, education programs, youth sports or other causes.”
(Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands) - 17-year-old Kemar Hall is the newest member of the Red Sail Sports team at East End, and he is quickly becoming a favorite with both customers and staff members because of his enthusiasm.
“It’s the most exciting thing I’ve done in a long time,” he explains. “I get to meet new people from all over the world…the U.S., the United Kingdom, Russia and other places.”
“Kemar is great!! He’s so keen and enthusiastic about the activities Red Sail offers, and the customers love that,” observes shop supervisor Debbie Wragg. “He is always polite, courteous and helpful − a lot of our customers have been seeking him out on the beach to ask questions and suggestions about what to do on the island.”
A year 12 student, Kemar Hall reports to work with Red Sail Sports two days a week and attends school the other three days. He’s participating in an 8-month work experience programme offered by the Cayman Islands Further Education Centre (CIFEC) and supported by Red Sail Sports, and other members of Cayman’s hospitality industry. Eight students are currently working part time with Red Sail Sports. 250 young Caymanians have been placed with tourism businesses island-wide.
“The hope is that they can secure full time or part time employment as a result of their work experience,” said Margaret Jackson, Head of Career Service at CIFEC, “Exploring varied career paths often helps students make life career decisions.”
“Kemar shows a lot of promise, and as an employer hiring a Caymanian makes a lot of sense,” said Rod McDowall, Operations Manager for Red Sail Sports. “There are no work permit fees involved and having a qualified Caymanian like him on our staff also gives us a broader mix of nationalities serving our customers.”
A certified diver, Kemar is on the dive boats shadowing divemasters and assisting customers, always sharing his pride in Cayman’s marine environment. He’s also accompanying guides and guests on Waverunner Safaris through the mangroves and shallow reefs.
“I’m concerned about overfishing − it’s a problem, ”he says. “If the fish are gone, there is nothing for underwater photographers to photograph. Cayman needs to have healthy reefs for tourism, and I want good things to happen for our tourism industry.”
This is the kind of awareness that leaders in local dive industry want to see in young Caymanians.
“This is an investment in their future and the future of tourism in the Cayman Islands,” said McDowall of Kemar and the other 7 students who reported to work two months ago in the various departments at Red Sail Sports including; retail sales, watersports, diving and catamarans.
In early September Kemar Hall and other students met with Red Sail Sports representatives at a CIFEC Career fair at school. They learned about Red Sail Sports and were encouraged to fill out a job application. Applications led to interviews and candidates were chosen based on good attitude and drive among other things. A company orientation session then showcased career opportunities with Red Sail Sports and the students were placed.
“The students returned from the session energized and excited about the opportunity,” said Margaret.
Each student has a development plan in place that includes initial goal setting, targets for monthly ratings and feedback, as well as a final review and recommendation. They meet regularly with their RSS supervisors to discuss these goals and targets.
“Most students haven’t been exposed to a professional workplace environment in which they are responsible for meeting targets and maintaining professional performance,” said Beth Hiryok, Red Sail Sports Training Manager. “We want to introduce them to this concept, help ensure they stay on target, and maximize their personal growth and productivity during their time with us.”
Other students now employed with Red Sail Sports are; Kylar Miller, Keysy Huffington, Kenya Pinnock, Candace Charles, Ashley McLean, Joseph Burey and Denniston Thompson.
Margaret Jackson says support from the community makes a big difference in successful programmes that change young lives.
“Red Sail Sports has supported the work experience programme at government high schools for many, many years,” she said. “Rod McDowall and staff at Red Sail have never failed to provide opportunities for our young people in areas of waters sports, diving and retail when requested.”
Rod McDowall is also a member of Cayman’s Hospitality Council an organization that focuses on tourism. He says the Council is working to help establish Hospitality Courses at the local university in 2013 – 2014, to offer young Caymanians other opportunities to choose the hospitality industry as a career.
The Cayman Islands Further Education Centre was opened in September 2010, as the result of the reorganization of secondary schools in Grand Cayman.
(October 22, 2012 – 7 Mile Beach, Grand Cayman) –– Deandra Ebanks, a George Town resident and college graduate with a hospitality management degree, is the newest member of the Red Sail Sports’ Destination Management Company (DMC) team. In her new position as a Group Sales Coordinator Ebanks is working with travel planners and group leaders to make sure corporate groups visiting the Cayman Islands are well taken care of during their stay. Her first charge was a group of 40 staying at the Ritz Carlton from October 13 until October 19, 2012.
“Every day has been different; it’s definitely a learning process, but everything has been going very well so far,” says Ebanks who joined Red Sail Sports a few weeks ago. “It’s rewarding to know that you have helped someone when you see a big smile on their face. I’m looking forward to having many happy and satisfied customers!”
As a destination management company, Red Sail Sports provides ground services based on local knowledge of Grand Cayman, resources and solid relationships with its tourism partners. Those DMC services include transportation arrangements, restaurant bookings and events, shopping shuttles, catamaran excursions, diving and watersports, group beach activities, Cayman cultural tours, welcome amenities and more.
The incentive travel industry is very competitive world-wide and the key to attracting large groups to Cayman is to offer them the best the island has available and then step up to make sure their visit goes flawlessly. Deandra Ebanks, born and raised on Grand Cayman, is excited about being a part of that.
“Of course, it helps that as a Caymanian I know my island, but what’s great about Red Sail is that it’s such a diverse company,” she said. “We are here to convey the same end product – being knowledgeable about the island, and delivering quality service. I’m learning a lot from my co-workers as well as I hope to teach them a thing or two. We work together and help each other.”
Red Sail’s DMC was formed in 1994 and through the years has served hundreds of corporate groups from small business gatherings to large corporate groups of several hundred people. It is not unusual to sail all four of Red Sail’s luxury catamarans for a single group excursion.
Operations Manager Rod McDowall says they are looking forward to a busy high season for incentive travel in 2013, and having a highly qualified Caymanian aboard is great for everyone.
“As an employer I always prefer to employ Caymanians who are interested in the tourism industry, not only because they don’t require work permits, but because they bring some real Cayman contact to everyone they meet.” he said. “Understanding Cayman’s workforce is truly international in flavor, hiring Deandra, who chose the hospitality industry as a career and is very qualified for the job, is a big plus for Red Sail Sports. We will all benefit.”
Deandra Ebanks attended Johnson & Wales University in North Miami, FL where she earned an Associate of Science in International Hotel Management in 2010 and a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management in 2011.
“I think that working in the hospitality industry is a great way to be an ambassador for the Cayman Islands,” she said. “As well as being a people-oriented industry, hospitality is creative – you are always trying to make the experience more enjoyable for the customers. This is an industry where you can meet people from all over and learn different cultures. I think the hospitality industry has a lot going for it and hope to see other young people take an interest.”
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, October 16, 2012 –– Red Sail Sports Grand Cayman recently spent a week making sales calls to travel partners in the Denver area and then greeting customers face to face at the Colorado Dive Show on September 28 & 29, 2012. This was a concerted effort to increase its presence in Colorado’s active dive community. Red Sail Sports teamed up with The Reef Resort to offer a great dive package that was well received by divers shopping for deals at the busy consumer dive show.
John and Bette Warn of Morrison, CO were among the divers who stopped by the Red Sail Sports booth to say hello. Avid divers and underwater photographers, the Warns enjoyed their fourth dive trip to the Cayman Islands with a group of dive buddies in June. They all dove with Red Sail Sports for a week.
“Red Sails Sports diving on the East End was great,” said Bette Warn. “The dive masters were attentive and yet let us explore at our own level of diving experience, and they were so good to show us critters that we could photograph.”
“Colorado boasts the highest number of divers per capita of any inland state, and they are very active divers who travel to the Caribbean as well as other more exotic locations,” said Lynn Taylor owner of A-1 Scuba & Travel Aquatics Center of Littleton, Co and one of Red Sail Sports’ top dive travel partners. “My in-house travel agents book a large number of dive travelers per year and we also do approximately 12 group escort dive trips per year to various locations.”
Bette and John Warn epitomize the active dive traveler. “I have been diving for 18 years and have over 700 dives and John has been diving for 16 years and has over 600 dives,” said Bette. “We have been diving in many places: Australia, Belize, Yap, Hawaii, Palau, Fiji, Cozumel, Cayman, Thailand, Bahamas, Roatan, Solomon Islands, Galapagos, Sulawai and hopefully we will go to Raj Ampat next year in Indonesia.”
In the days leading up to the trade show a team that included Sarah-Jane Whitehill, Red Sail Sports Sales and Marketing Supervisor; Brittany Wilson, The Reef Resort Marketing and Public Relations Manager and Tina Hodgson, Cayman Islands Department of Tourism Representative for the Southwest, called on travel partners in the area promoting the Cayman Islands.
At A-1 Scuba & Travel Aquatics Center they toured the company’s new facility and met the travel agents.
“It was great to put a face to the name as we had been emailing with them for the longest time,” said Sarah-Jane Whitehill. “It was nice to be able to take our working relationship to a more personal level by actually meeting and getting to know one another.”
“We have had a very good relation with Red Sail for many years but my agents have been booking them for individual bookings even more of recent,” said Lynn Taylor. “Our customers have been reporting very favorably regarding their experiences with Red Sail in Grand Cayman.”
“These face-to-face meetings with the travel partners who send us customers year round allow us to build and strengthen personal relationships and enhance communications that are the basis for successful businesses," said Rod McDowall, Red Sail Sports Operations Manager. “We also want to reach out to those who may not be fully tapping into the dive travel market and introduce them to our remarkable diving here in the Cayman Islands.”
At the Colorado Dive Show Red Sail Sports joined the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism and other island dive operators promoting Cayman as the premier dive destination in the Caribbean. It’s warm clear water, dramatic walls, spectacular reefs and abundant sea creatures make Cayman an easy dive destination to sell. Just ask first time visitors Diana Caldeira and Erick Roden who traveled to Grand Cayman and Little Cayman with Betty and John Warn in June.
“This is our first trip to the Caymans and I enjoyed the diving very much,” said Caldeira. “Grand Cayman was beautiful. We all had a fabulous time and Red Sails did an excellent job.”
“Diving was a huge part of the draw for me to visit the islands,” said Erick Roden. “The reef is in very good condition, some of the best I've seen in the Caribbean for sure.”
Of course Bette Warn doesn’t have to be sold – she is convinced.
“I would definitely recommend the Cayman Islands to anyone who has not been there, as the diving is the best in the Caribbean, the cost is reasonable and the travel to and from is fast and easy to accomplish,” she said. “Even for those who have been there, it is fun to compare our positive experiences and the beautiful healthy reefs. We will definitely be returning."
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands, August 30, 2012 –– Red Sail Sports Grand Cayman, one of the Caribbean’s premier dive operators, has been awarded the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI) Longevity Award for 25 years of outstanding service to the dive industry. The company, celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year, has maintained a PADI membership since the day it opened its doors with two dive boats and a small but enthusiastic staff. PADI Regional Manager Mike Kurczewski presented the award to Red Sail Sports Operations Manager Rod McDowall.
“Just from a longevity standpoint it is quite an accomplishment,” said Kurczewski who has been serving PADI dive centers and resorts in Cayman Islands for 17 years. “To be able to be in business today in light of the economy, 911 and other challenges; to survive all that is a testament to their business acumen.”
McDowall says there are many reasons for Red Sail Sports’ resiliency through the ups and downs of global economics and natural disasters.
“We have adjusted to industry needs, embraced changes and innovations, been flexible and professional; we have maintained quality customer service and equipment more than a quarter of a century,” he said, “but none of that could have been achieved without exceptional staff at all levels who have made the company what it is today. Through the years they have given hundreds of thousands guests and families memorable vacation experiences.”
McDowall estimates Red Sail Sports has increased the rolls of scuba divers worldwide by about 50,000 people during the past 25 years. Thousands of vacationers enticed by the warm clear Caribbean water have taken a Discover Scuba Course which allows them, after pool training, to enjoy Cayman’s famed coral reefs on a supervised dive. After an introduction like that, many have gone on to become certified divers. Thousands more have completed or advanced their scuba training with Red Sail Sports.
“The dive industry’s success depends on the commitment and enthusiasm of the dive store and resort operators like Red Sail Sports, ” said PADI Executive Nick Jenny. “25 years of membership certainly demonstrate commitment and adaptability to the sport. To achieve this kind of longevity, businesses must be innovative and driven.”
Each year PADI Americas recognizes Dive Centers and Resorts who do outstanding work in diving and training, and who adhere to the standards set by the Association. The Longevity Award is first presented to members who retain membership for five years. Red Sail Sports is one of 29 members to receive the 25-year award in 2012.