Keep gaming dialogue open

I would like to express my concern and make some suggestions toward the earning power of our islands.

From what I understand, the two main industries of these Islands are tourism and what’s left of the 5th largest financial centre in the world.

We no longer even fall in the Top 10 of this category. The fact of the matter is that we are no longer even in the Top 20 of this category.

Tourism numbers are down. Part of the reason for that has to do with the fact that we have a lot less than the approximately 500 banks we used to have; fewer banks, less attraction to finance based tourism. While we appreciate the revenue from the cruise based tourism, we can do a lot to attract tourists that stay over and spend money with all tourism related businesses. This ensures revenue for all concerned.

We can no longer depend on being a top of the line financial centre, nor can we pretend that we will ever regain the numbers that put us on the top in the first place. The possibility for that is much closer to impossible than possible because there is just too much affordable competition in the world.

So how do we make ourselves more marketable to compete strongly with the competition? How can we make our product more appealing? Our tourism industry no longer has the distinction of claiming the success and stability of our banking industry therefore putting us at a disadvantage.

So how do we replace that earning power? How do we sell ourselves as a tourist destination? It is time for the people to face the truth of the matter! Our Island does have some really great diving, Stingray City, Boatswain’s Beach, Seven Mile Beach and now our dolphin attractions.

Our Islands still maintain the reputation as being one of the safest and cleanest destinations available in the Caribbean. The question is how much longer will we be able to make that claim?

Does the cost of a vacation to our Islands compare with the cost to any other Caribbean destinations that may have more natural resources and tourism based attractions? Do we have a self-made disadvantage on our hands? How do we regain our once stellar reputation in the financial world and our 5th place in that offering?

It is my opinion that we should consider the gaming industry to help regain our advantage, therefore improving our popularity as a tourist destination. We have to provide a product we can sell to tourists and the gaming industry is a product we can sell to tourists.

I know there are causes for concern and there should be cause for concern. It stimulates healthy, sensible dialogue. If we can all come together and ensure this is done the right way, it can benefit the people of these Islands. The need to tax or threaten to tax the residents here would and could be withdrawn. The need to increase fees and withhold salary increases/cost of living raises from employees, both private and public sector, would be corrected and more viable for all.

I’m sure there are those who would/will oppose this possible solution of making our Islands a more attractive and competitive product in this ever changing marketplace. What has worked for the past 40 or so years is no longer viable due to changes in the global marketplace.

I simply ask that when doing so (opposing) please give other possible solutions that will create the thousands of jobs this plan will create with the building of the casinos and staffing them. The tax revenue to our Government and trade to all our now struggling service trades and transportation businesses that would be created with the introduction of legal gaming to these Islands would be increased dramatically. The gaming industry would have the earning power for these Islands, if done the right way that would be unprecedented in the Caribbean given all the other positive attributes these Islands already have.

It would make us all as Caymanians, be able to afford to live here without the constant fear of losing jobs, homes and other social needs to which we have become accustomed. This proposition requires serious thought and much discussion.

The new Constitution will allow us as a people, to have a say come 6 November, 2009.

I say we as a people should welcome the opportunity to have valid and reasonable dialogue on this or other possible solutions to regain our lost status in the two areas that will benefit us all.

Roger Linwood