I refer to a letter from the Minister of Tourism that appeared in your 10 April, 2007 issue as a reply to an earlier letter from Mr. Ron Kipp.
While I am disappointed to read such, I am not surprised.
It appears that if one has a critique of this Ministry it must now fit into a certain prescribed category. This is almost comical, yet serious and it should give all of us reason to pause and ask the question -what happens to the minds of some ordinary people when they acquire a little temporary power?
But back to tourism. It does not matter what kind of spin the Minister tries to put on this situation, the bottom line is that we have an industry that is in serious trouble and has been for the past eight or nine years.
However if one examines the facts, they will show that Mr. Clifford was one of those responsible for framing and administering tourism policy for the past five or six years. I recall him explaining to me in his office while he was PS in the Ministry that tourism policy was made there and not at the DOT.
If those policies have proven to be failures, why then is the responsibility for such blamed on the former Minister alone? Mr. Bush and Mr. Clifford were a team and it’s only fair that the team should share the responsibility.
Instead of Minister Clifford wasting his time trying to rebut every critique or comment of his leadership/management with regard to tourism, he could better serve the country if he would reach out to Mr. Kipp and many others in the community with much knowledge and experience in tourism, who quite frankly have probably forgotten more about this business than the Minister will ever learn.
With regard to the air arrival statistics one has to ask; what are the description/criteria of an air arrival vs. a tourist. Are returning residents and friends of residents being counted as air arrivals? If so, it would not be the first time this has happened.
I have interacted with our tourists and have listened to them for years and if the policy makers would do likewise they would know why we have half empty hotel and condo rooms.
However, it is obvious that the Minister’s exposure to our guests is very limited, which might explain why some of his actions to find solutions are dead wrong. We cannot solve these issues by hiring more bureaucrats, but you can do so by empowering people. Bigger Government has never been the answer to any problem, yet we are heading in that direction at full speed ahead.
Presently, the Government owns the tourism budget (marketing and promotions), the airline, and all the land-based attractions (by the way all are losing money); in addition it now controls the sea attraction as well. The only exception in this equation is some of the room stock (some are subsidized) and perhaps the time has come for the Government to buy the others and carry on this so called business as a social experiment with the private sector completely out of their way.
During 2001-2003 Mr. Bush requested the help of the private sector with tourism and created the Tourism Action Committee, which acted as a defacto board of directors to the DOT.
I was a member of this group and had the pleasure of serving with Mr. Kipp and several other competent individuals who gave much of themselves free of charge, for tourism and country. One might not always agree with Mr. Kipp but to say that he did not understand this business and contributed much, would be an understatement.
Unfortunately, this group was disbanded by the Bush/Clifford duo immediately after Mrs. Rittenhouse was hired as the new DOT head. This action was one of their biggest mistakes as it left the industry rudderless at a time when the new director needed help and we all have experienced the results.
Any open minded competent leader/manager will surround himself with people of differing opinions, respect those opinions and build consensus to reach sensible practical solutions.
I was pleased when Mr. Clifford was elected to the Ministry and personally congratulated him and offered a helping hand.
I, like many others, expected new positive changes; instead we seem to be getting more of the same.
In the meantime the market has moved on because we have a deteriorated product (Cayman), which it is no longer willing to buy at the price we are charging. This may be just a bunch of words for those who are guaranteed a pay cheque by Government, for some of us in this business it is a serious economic reality.
Mr. Clifford is right about one thing- this country needs visionary optimists in order to succeed, but from where I sit it looks like we are running short on those as well.
By the way, I too applied once for the DOT position at the request of the then Governor, but was passed over as not being politically correct, so you’re not alone Ron.