EDITORIAL: A tourism lesson

Asia could take a lesson from the tourism experts in the Cayman Islands.

Rebuild and they will come.

Tourism destinations in countries crippled by the 26 December tsunami are making appeals to tourists worldwide.

An e-mailed plea from the manager of the Kata Beach Resort in Phuket reads ‘We’re re-open for business, clients are again sunning themselves by the pool and, please, put out word that vacationers can come back.’

Those destinations find themselves in the same predicament that faced the Cayman Islands following Hurricane Ivan in mid-September.

Like the Cayman Islands, tourism is a major economic booster to many of the countries damaged in the tsunami.

And like the Cayman Islands, it is imperative that those countries get on the fast track to restoration.

The tourism sector in this country rallied immediately following the hurricane and came up with a gameplan to quickly get tourists back to help bolster the economy.

At first only cruise ship passengers were allowed on Grand Cayman’s shores to take in the shops and open attractions.

Now stay-over guests are taking advantage of opened hotels and rental units island-wide. In the meantime, the clean-up and restoration effort continues, with progress seen daily.

The tourism gurus in the Cayman Islands knew what had to be done to bring much-needed cash back into the temporarily crippled economy. Visitors to the islands have been sympathetic about the damage incurred here and most say they would like to return.

Asian tourism officials must first get over the shock at the loss of property and life. But in the long run, they can look to the Cayman Islands to see how one small Caribbean country was able to rally and begin rebuilding one of its largest economic sectors.

Tourism experts say previous disasters have shown that tourists frequently have short memories of devastation and that rebuilding is often rapid in places dependant on visitors.

It’s a lesson Cayman learned and one that Asia should heed.