Tourism’s future tackled

A new commission for tourism will
be implemented on Cayman, according to Cayman Islands Premier, McKeeva Bush.

The Tourism Commission will be
headed by Cline Glidden, MLA, along with two private sector individuals. Mr
Glidden will not have the power to authorise any spending but he will make
recommendations for Premier McKeeva Bush and the cabinet to discuss.

Premier Bush was speaking at the
Cayman Business Outlook and in a long speech he reaffirmed his belief that
Cayman needs to realign itself to get the tourism industry back on track.

“I will reactivate the Tourism
Advisory Council which the tourism law calls for. This will be made up of a
chairman, eight private sector partners and the acting director of tourism
[Shomari Scott]. The bottom line is that we have to proceed expeditiously and
with precision to get our business back on track,” he told assembled business
people.

Marketing strategies and promotions
are already being implemented by the Department of Tourism, such as the current
Get Warm promotion that encourages travellers from the northern hemisphere and
colder countries to get some winter sun.

Strategies

During the speech, Premier Bush
conceded that when his party came into power there was not a coherent strategy
and the subsequent financial crisis had pulled him personally away from direct
involvement in tourism. He laid out three elements of what he called a
‘turnaround for tourism’.

Firstly, he said, defining a vision
for tourism was essential.

“We need to create alignment across
the public and private sectors, and ideally alignment, where appropriate and
important, between financial services, tourism and real estate and
infrastructure development.

“This includes what Brand Cayman
stands for and where we want it to be in 2012 – for the three Cayman
Islands.  It includes
strategically leveraging our assets, such as the National Flag Carrier, Cayman
Airways and being committed to delivering excellent service,” he noted.

Secondly, Premier Bush highlighted
the need to employ talented individuals within both the public and private
sectors of the tourism industry. He also said that both sides must work on
removing any fragmentation between them.

Finally he made the point that a
sense of urgency and accountability was more important than ever, particularly
at a time when people are losing their jobs.

Events

Mr. Bush paid tribute to the
‘world-class events’ such as Cayman Cookout and Taste of Cayman, although as an
aside he noted that it would be better if the two culinary showcases were not
on at the same weekend. He also praised jazz fest as a key aspect of future
planning.

“The Jazz Fest was excellently
done, the greatest crowd ever and I believe it’s beginning to see some light at
the end of the tunnel. I see the Jazz Fest not just [an excuse] to have another
drunken party. [It is there] so that people will come. We have got to keep attracting
the type of talent so people from overseas will come,” noted the Premier.

Cayman’s infrastructure was in
focus, too, with Mr. Bush saying that the current airstrip would be extended
and the general terminal developed.

“I must say that I’ve had some
competent people study the need for a new airport elsewhere and they have come
to the conclusion that that can happen and should happen. But the cost is over
350 million dollars. So we can’t go in that direction, as much as I believe
that is the way we should go.”

Cuba

The Premier said that it was time
to look overseas and create relationships with Cayman’s neighbours as the
political landscape elsewhere was changing very fast.

“It’s not ‘if’ Cuba opens up,
it is ‘when’, and they are already moving to develop their cruise business. So
we have to work hard and move fast to build the piers. We need to also have a
partnership with Cuba,
the Cuban Tourism Ministry and I am in the process of doing that right now.

“Someone has already visited there
and I will be writing there and to the British Embassy so we can get a meeting
set up, and I know we will, between the Cuban Tourism and Cayman to talk about
twin-island tourism and how we can make our synergies work,” he said.

Hotels

There were several opportunities
‘on the table’ for the development of new hotels, he added, of which the government
was in full support.

“There are people that believe it
is not right to build additional hotels because we are a small island. Well, we
are a small island, and we depend on it.

“So while people come here we get
business come in, and while they employ people we get business from them – they
rent the apartments that the Cayman men build. They buy from the stores that we
own. To me it makes common sense to do so because these large hotels pull their
own clientele and these benefits can be especially important when there is a
recession,” said the Premier.

Positive

Premier Bush ended on a positive
note, announcing that Delta Airlines had confirmed they are to begin weekly
Saturday flights to New York JFK from Cayman, which is timed to allow for
European connections.

November 2009 saw an increase in
visitor arrivals and December’s indications were that solid business had been
done, he concluded.

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