(CMR) Tourism pioneer and DOT's first director, Eric Bergstrom (84), has passed away at his home in Pompano Beach, Florida one day before his birthday on October 14.
Bergstrom was born in Wisconsin on October 14, 1933, and first came to Cayman in 1961 with his then-wife Suzy Soto. Two years later they moved to the Cayman Islands permanently to manage the original Tortuga Club in East End – now known as Morritt’s Tortuga Club and Resort. The Tortuga Club hosted Jacques Cousteau, Emil Gagnon, the Lord of Bath, Prince Charles and other notable guests.
When the Cayman Islands Tourist Board was created in 1966, Mr. Bergstrom headed the organization and was instrumental in increasing its budget from $7,000 in the first year to $98,000 by 1968.
This statutory board was the precedent for the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, which was created by the Tourism Law of 1974. Mr. Bergstrom served as the department’s first director. He retired in 1988 leaving behind a staff of 75 persons and a department budget of more than $9 million annually.
The following year he left Cayman after 26 years of being involved in the tourism industry and eventually settled with his second wife, Nancy, in Florida.
The tourism pioneer received many awards for his efforts throughout his career, including being made a Member of the British Empire in 1969. In 2017, Mr. Bergstrom was honored during Heroes Day, receiving an award for Pioneer in Tourism.
Bergstrom is survived by his five children.