Tourism trips queried

A trip to Washington, DC, for the first ever annual Caribbean Tourism Summit last June cost the Cayman Islands’ Department and Ministry of Tourism nearly CI$200,000.

trips queried

Director of Tourism Shomari Scott.

And the Department of Tourism US sales meetings held in Miami in February cost $50,287.

The information comes from a recent Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Tourism.

US Marketing Summit

Although travelling abroad for such trips is commonplace, some people have questioned the expense.

Asked why the US sales meetings could not have been held here, especially in light of the difficult economic climate, when local hotels and restaurants could have welcomed extra business, Acting Director of Tourism Shomari Scott said it would have cost more to have held the meetings locally.

‘While a few representatives from the Ministry and Department of Tourism, as well as the tourism private sector did attend the meetings in Miami, the US meetings are a rare opportunity for all of the US staff to meet as a team, receive updates and plan for the coming year.

‘Budgets are always tight, particularly in the current economic climate, and the reality is that it would have cost us significantly more money to have everyone fly into Grand Cayman and host the meetings here than it did to have the US team meet in the US.’

Mr. Scott noted that the Miami meetings held in early February were the US sales meetings, which are normally held in the US twice a year.

Global meetings, which are held two or three times a year, are always held on island, he said, most recently late April at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort.

The bulk of the expense for the February trip was US$36,379 for DoT’s total accommodations. Another US$9,500 was spent on DoT total subsistence allowance and travel advance and CI$10,369 for MoT staff subsistence and total allowance. Just $1,600 was spent on DoT total airfare.

At the week-long sales meetings were delegates from: The Ministry of Tourism, Department of Tourism (from Grand Cayman, USA, Canada and Europe), Cayman Airways, The Cayman Islands Tourism Association and DoT’s US marketing agencies, with input from agency partners in Europe and Canada.

In the FOI response from the Ministry it was noted that the meetings were conducted to bring the teams together to inform and develop DoT’s marketing strategies for 2009/10 in order to remain as strong as possible in the 2009 marketplace, especially in light of the current challenges and continually changing US economy.

The FOI response also stated that outcome and key learnings from these meetings include best marketing practices during the US economic recession and global solutions.

Caribbean Summit

The Cayman Islands delegation, which travelled to Washington, DC, last year for the Caribbean Tourism Summit from 22-26 June, comprised of the Ministry of Tourism and the Department of Tourism.

The total spent was CI$192,620.

The bulk of the money – $136,815 – was the DoT total, inclusive of airfare, accommodations, sponsorship of registration fees and dinner.

The Ministry’s total was $55,804, with nearly $51,000 of that on airfare and the rest on staff subsistence allowance and travel advance.

Leaders from over 32 Caribbean countries as well as US government officials and tourism and investment communities were in attendance.

Amongst the activities were scheduled business meetings such as the Ministers of Tourism meeting, the Director of Tourism meeting and marketing meetings. There were also many tourism-related presentations.

The Cayman Islands also showcased its talent and culture in a showcase of local food and music.

A new feature of the event was the Jim Bodden Award for outstanding public service by a contemporary person of Caribbean-American heritage. This was sponsored by the Cayman Islands.

FOI Request

Although this FOI request was emailed to the Ministry of Tourism on Thursday, 26 February, a response did not arrive until Wednesday, 20 May – just short of three months later.

The Ministry initially acknowledged the request on 4 March, 2009, saying it had been received by them on 2 March and a letter noted that they would undertake the necessary research to respond to the request within the prescribed period – 30 calendar days.

On 6 May the Ministry sent confirmation letters that it would supply answers to the requests and on 13 May the Ministry said it was still working to provide answers.

The letter said they were going to provide supplementary data to fully explain the numbers and to give a clearer view of the goals of the two trips.

They also said they had received DoT’s portion of information so two separate requests would not need to be made.