The ongoing budget debate has captured a growing feeling that cultivating a sense of ownership within the tourism industry can help bring Caymanians onto a level playing field in the search of economic prosperity and preserving local culture.
George Town member Lucille Seymour, West Bay member Cline Glidden, and Cayman Brac member Juliana O’Connor-Connolly agreed infusing money into tourism training and businesses, as well as the Go East initiative will help preserve Caymanian culture and national pride.
While Ms O’Connor-Connelly expressed her concern that the government had to work hard to ensure its promise to strengthen its relationship with the Sister Islands by committing to embracing them, Ms Seymour emphasised this could be done by expanding the Go East initiative which will encourage small locally-owned business development.
Both Ms Seymour and Ms O’Connor-Connelly expressed their concern with the image Caymanians have not only in the eyes of tourists but also of themselves.
In recognition that many Caymanians feel like economic outsiders in their own country, Ms Seymour argued that revitalization of the eastern George Town districts would improve the first impression the Cayman Islands makes on tourists travelling from the airport to town.
If the Cayman Islands tourism industry is to be a strong pillar of the economy, ‘We must commit to making George Town a competitive city with all the trimmings,’ she said.
She proposed the creation of a Caymanian ‘Royal Mile’, which she argued would provide needed foundations for the creation of new businesses and jobs in George Town for Caymanians who are feeling left out of the current economic boom.
As well as advocating improvements to the capital and in support of the Go East initiative, she emphasised the importance of including the Sister Islands.
Ms O’Connor-Connolly further elaborated on the concept, saying that Cayman Brac and Little Cayman residents were desperately in need of government support for their economies and would greatly benefit from any inflow of capital to help develop local enterprises.
Ms O’Connor-Connolly suggested that Constitutional reform might assist the Sister Islands further by creating a new Minister with that portfolio.
Tourism Minister Charles Clifford reaffirmed the government’s actions on tourism and maintaining ties with the Sister Islands, saying that an increased level of communication both though air travel and dialogue was a priority.
He discussed the government’s commitment to tourism training to make sure that Caymanians would have the capacity to become fully engaged in the development of more locally-owned and operated tourism businesses.