Minister for Tourism Charles Clifford told attendees at a forum to explore the ‘Go East’ tourism initiative that the Government’s real policy on it will be a result of the people’s input and advice.
‘This is your initiative and I hope that you will seize the opportunities, which it creates,’ he said.
‘The opportunities are endless from small accommodations, to restaurants, to attractions such as nature tours, to kayaking, to fishing, scuba diving, snorkelling, horseback riding and bicycle tours.’
About 45 people attended the forum at Savannah Primary School on Saturday.
The impetus behind the ‘Go East’ initiative can be boiled down to two main concepts: sustainable tourism and distribution of the economic benefits of tourism across the entire country, Minister Clifford said.
‘Go East will promote sustainable tourism in the Eastern Districts, with an emphasis being placed on tourism activities, which will enhance economic health, social responsibility and environmental welfare,’ he said.
Speaking about the importance of sustainable tourism, Mr. Clifford said it will be the focus of the Ministry and Department of Tourism’s policy and business development.
Explaining that sustainable tourism requires the optimal use of natural and cultural resources, he said this does not mean focusing only on Seven Mile Beach and the traditional tourism corridors in George Town and West Bay.
‘This means taking an inventory of what our natural and cultural resources are, regardless of where they are, and developing them in a way, which will not destroy the very essence of what makes them special, but, which will allow us to share them with our visitors. And once this is done we make these great new products available and we generate an appropriate level of demand for them.’
He outlined the key objectives as:
Distribute the economic benefits of tourism across a wider geographical and socio-economic area, allowing less developed areas to benefit from the tourism industry at a scale and model, which is appropriate to them;
Embrace cultural and heritage tourism and put the spotlight on attractions, people and products, which speak to these very important components of the Cayman Islands experience;
Improve the destination’s carrying capacity for tourism, including the better management of cruise tourism;
Receive input from local residents on the various development and operational models, which could be adopted, and discuss opportunities related to the tourism initiative in an open and public forum;
Identify ways to increase the level of Caymanian ownership of, and participation in, the tourism industry and then work with these partners to enhance their delivery of a truly ‘Caymanian experience’;
Increase levels of local employment in the tourism industry, and by extension social improvements such as enhanced pride in the Cayman Islands history and heritage.
The policy framework of the Go East initiative, he said, is consistent with the National Tourism Management Policy, the goal of, which is to support a tourism sector, which is sustainable and capable of flourishing over the long term.
The Go East initiative will directly support and facilitate four of the NTMP’s nine objectives:
Organise tourism in the Cayman Islands more effectively (including cruise tourism);
Present a distinctive Caymanian experience;
Adopt a sustainable approach to tourism development;
Provide a high quality product for the visitor.
He added that the Go East initiative is also a direct result of the PPM’s governance framework for tourism.
Existing businesses had been consulted in order to take inventory of what businesses exist and to get a sense of the common challenges they may face, the Minister said.
‘To this end, we conducted a one-day tour of some 15 different businesses in Bodden Town, East End and North Side.’
He said, ‘The real difference in the Eastern districts is that the first-class service is still delivered mainly with a Caymanian smile, a rustic charm and an undisturbed natural beauty’.
He noted that there is reportedly a high level of visitor satisfaction and by extension a high level of repeat businesses associated with these areas.
Director of Tourism Pilar Bush gave a presentation on developing tourism in line with the NTMP, Mr. Brian Mullis of Sustainable Travel International spoke about best practices in sustainable tourism, Mr. Dax Basdeo, Cayman Islands Investment Bureau spoke about pursuing new business opportunities and Cayman Islands Development Bank’s Hecton Hemans presented on funding for small businesses.
On Saturday, 22 April a forum takes place at the North Side Civic Centre and on Saturday 13 May at the East End Civic Centre.