Cayman tourism authorities need to work more closely with the private sector to stem the falling numbers of stayover and cruise tourists, according to McKeeva Bush.
The Leader of Government Business, speaking in his capacity as minister for tourism, has asked the Department of Tourism develop strategies with the private sector partners to increase summer and autumn stayover business.
He said he was not convinced that the industry had done all it could to compete with vacation offers from Caribbean and US competitors.
Mr. Bush has also asked the Department of Tourism to review all internal operations and programmes to see how additional funds could be directed to marketing, promotions and training.
Mr. Bush said that in July he would create a Tourism Action Committee consisting of industry leaders to deal with the challenges facing tourism in Cayman.
West Bay MLA and Deputy Speaker Cline Glidden would assist Mr. Bush with tourism issues, working with the public and private sectors on marketing, promotion and development of tourism products.
According to a government press release on Tuesday, Mr. Bush had asked Mr. Glidden to ‘coordinate the process for exploring development options for several tourism related infrastructure projects, including the cruise berthing project and the airport redevelopment project, and to stimulate increased numbers of visitors and generally be a point of contact for the tourism industry.’
The Ministry of Tourism will dedicate a full-time person to cruise tourism, Mr. Bush said, adding that he intended to ‘focus on getting a plan in place very quickly for the development of the cruise berthing facilities’.
Under the former government, the then tourism minister Charles Clifford announced plans to build a berth that could accommodate four cruise ships at George Town harbour.
An environmental impact study is currently being carried out to determine the viability of a cruise dock being built on the site.
To determine the state of cruise tourism and how to improve the experience for tourists, Mr. Bush, along with Mr. Glodden, Chief Officer of the Ministry of Tourism Carson Ebanks and representatives from the Port Authority, Boatswain’s Beach and the Land and Sea Co-op, met the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association on 5 June.
Improvements needed to be done to the Royal Watler Cruise Terminal and Spotts, the delegates were told.
‘The [association] reported that the dust, poor staging, lack of restroom facilities and lines at Spotts had led the cruise lines to consider bypassing Cayman on days when the George Town port was inoperable,’ the release said.
The association told the Cayman Islands representatives that cruise tourists were confused by the name Boatswain’s Beach, with some thinking they are paying to go to a beach. They also reported that the cost of tours was too expensive.
Last week, Mr. Bush led a small delegation to Washington to attend the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s Annual Tourism Summit, where he met with US Congressman William Delahunt, who serves a House sub-committee responsible for Immigration matters.
During the discussions Mr. Bush asked for US government consideration of establishing US immigration and customs pre-clearance in Cayman, as well as having the US Immigration come to Cayman to conduct visa interviews or use videoconferencing technologies for interviews.
The group also received a briefing on the US-UK Open Skies, the new aviation agreement between the US and European Union, and how the Overseas Territories might consider approaching the UK to negotiate with the US on behalf of the territories.
The team continued to New York City, where they received briefings from the Department of Tourism’s senior executives and agencies and met with key external industry experts to provide statistics, facts, issues and opportunities about the global tourism industry and Cayman’s potential.
‘This is the first time in almost 10 years that the Ministry of Tourism has not taken a large contingent to New York for CTO Week where Cayman-based residents could see the marketing initiatives at work and learn more about Cayman Islands tourism in the main market of the United States,’ said Mr. Bush. ‘However, the dire state of the Cayman Islands’ economy and Government’s finances call for austere measures at this time.’
Mr. Bush said he would next be turning his attention to Cayman Airways to ensure the national carrier is being used ‘in the most efficient and effective way possible as a strategic tool of the economic recovery’.
Mr. Bush is in the UK this week to meet with financial services business partners and government officials, but plans to also meet with the DoT’s UK office and industry partners.
‘I am confident that with some courage to tackle the real problems and a commitment to focus our efforts on developing the business of tourism, both inside and outside the Cayman Islands, we will reverse the trend of declining visitor arrivals within the next year, increase guest satisfaction levels and in so doing, keep businesses operating, keep people employed and get our economy on the right track again,’ Mr. Bush said.