I know, I know, this Sir Turtle thing has been put to bed with the national airline’s chairperson assuring that the iconic ensign isn’t going anywhere and further discussion is just beating a dead horse, uh… pirate, that is… turtle, whatever.
Why though, did even the vague allusion by the tourism minister that the Cayman Islands’ venerable trademark may have reached retirement age and should be put out to pasture cause such an emotive and decidedly negative reaction?
Sir Turtle, the apparent unfortunate consequence of a buccaneer dating a tortoise, sprang to life more than 40 years ago and has served as the pitchman for the Cayman Islands ever since with nary a complaint. In addition, the gallant knight has pulled double duty as CAL’s tail crest for nearly as long. This faithful service only cost Government a buck (no kidding, a single dollar) – the sale price for the rights to the cartoon by its creator. A bargain even Government couldn’t screw-up.
To the many frequent return visitors way back when, Sir Turtle evoked the Cayman Islands of the time, tranquil, unspoiled, friendly and unique. It’s safe to say none of these adjectives apply any longer and the travellers who once journeyed here to enjoy such attributes have long ago found other ports of call.
For us inhabitants of these Cayman Islands, sentimentality and nostalgia are self-indulgent reactions to Sir Turtle that don’t increase load factors or raise occupancy rates.
It’s time for a reality check and re-branding might not be such a waste of time and money after all. We need a new advertising campaign with a huckster that embodies the Cayman Islands of today and will attract the discerning vacationer in search of a holiday experience our tourism product now offers.
The Sir Turtle concept, the amalgamation of two hallmarks of Cayman Islands history, was brilliant. And keeping that concept is a subtle way of bridging the past to the present. So here are some suggestions for fusing different elements that typify the modern Cayman Islands into one eye-catching, identifiable and memorable character.
Cross a cruise ship with a tour bus driver and call her Miss Carriage.
Cross a high-rise tower crane with a real estate agent and call him Colonel Condo.
Cross a $50 bill with a bartender and call him Lord Larceny.
Cross a bulldozer with a developer and call him Captain Concrete.
Cross a revolving door with an Immigration Officer and call her Dame Indenture.
Cross a defibrillator with a North Sound boat trip operator and call him Commodore Cardiac.
Cross a can opener with a stingray and call it Major Congestion.
Cross Boatswain’s Beach with a pork barrel politician and call him Barron Boondoggle.
Cross the George Town landfill with a golfer and call her Empress Unsustainable.
Of course I’m not saying it will be easy to replace Sir Turtle. Perhaps the DoT could sponsor a contest. After all, that’s how VR-CAL was christened Cayman Victory.
Gregory S. McTaggart