The new ‘Junior Minister of Tourism’ is Cayman Brac High School’s Karthika Velusamy, following her victory in the 2008 Tourism Speak-off competition final held last week.
It is the third year in a row that a Cayman Brac High School student has held the title after competing in the Ministry and Department of tourism’s competition.
16-year-old Karthika fought off stiff competition from first runner-up 17-year old Andrel Harris of John Gray High School, and second runner-up 14-year-old Jovonnie Anglin of Cayman Brac High School.
The competition is part of a MoT/DoT tourism awareness programme.
Karthika will hold the ‘Junior Minister’ title for one year and she will be given the opportunity to take part in tourism activities, including the annual Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s Youth Congress, the Annual Tourism Conference, the Tourism Stingray Awards and the Tourism Exchange.
The outgoing ‘Junior Minister’ Myfanwy Leggatt presented awards to the winner and two runner ups following the debate on Friday at the University College of the Cayman Islands, where principals, teachers, fellow students, family and friends gathered to watch the event.
Myfanwy spoke about her time in the role over the past year, a position she said she cherished. ‘It was an empowering, gratifying and rewarding experience, being able to represent Cayman on the international stage,’ she said.
She advised the winner to dream big but not to forget who had helped to get them there and where they had come from.
A team of seven judges deliberated their decision after each of the finalists spoke on three speak off topics, two prepared and one a mystery topic to test impromptu responses.
Participants had been pre-screened on their position paper, the Tourism Manifesto, entitled ‘Promoting Responsible Tourism in the Cayman Islands’ to go towards their final score.
At the speak-off, participants were judged on the content, knowledge and organisation of their speeches, delivery skills and their ability to speak confidently and knowledgably on the impromptu topic.
The first prepared topic the students spoke on was ‘Climate Change and its impact on tourism in the Cayman Islands’.
Speakers’ views included commending the Little Cayman Research Centre for its work, emphasising that the development of green tourism is a win/win situation, highlighted the importance of cleaning up beaches and prevention of coastal erosion, along with a need to be more vigilant in building infrastructure to withstand hurricanes.
The second prepared topic was ‘Attracting Cayman Islands Youth to View Tourism as a viable Career Option’.
In this topic speakers pointed out some of the misconceptions associated with working in the tourism industry, including the myths that you must be a people person and that you will make a minimum wage.
A greater emphasis on and improvement of tourism in the schools’ curriculum was also suggested to help students understand more about tourism as a career choice.
In the mystery topic, students had to state what measures they would put in place, as Minister, to boost tourism in the face of high oil prices.
Karthika suggested: increasing cruise tourists; providing bus shuttles for tourists so they wouldn’t have to hire a car while they are here; use of travel packages to encourage tourists here.
Andrel suggested: reduction in airfares as oil prices decline; a focus on making true Caymanian products for tourists.
Jovonnie suggested: importing hybrids so tourists would not have to pay so much for gas; target those tourists that would spend the most money here.
The Judges were: Henry Muttoo, Artistic Director with the Cayman National Cultural Foundation; Heidi Knowlton of the Department of Education Services and previous Junior Minister of Tourism; Daphine Watson DoT’s customer service standards inspection officer; Maria Kennedy, teacher at St. Ignatius Catholic School; Nickolas DaCosta, previous Junior Minister of Tourism; Rod McDowall, Operations Manager of Red Sails Sports; Corine Solomon, member of Grand Cayman Toastmaster’s Club and author.