Tourism industry faces budget cuts

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The tourism
sector is fragmented and faces budget cuts, according to the government.

Chairman of
the Ministerial Council for Tourism and Development Cline Glidden, Jr. said
that the body has ‘embarked on transforming the tourism industry’ but warned
that tough decisions would have to be made.

“Given these
dire economic times, we have to face the imperative for change head on;
starting with the public sector expenditure in tourism,” Mr. Glidden said. “Rationalizing,
right-sizing and re-tooling will unquestionably come with sacrifices and budget
cuts, but our task is to increase the benefits of tourism to the people of this
country and to do that we have to increase the efficiencies and increase the
return on investment on the public sector expenditure in tourism.”

The
Ministerial Council for Tourism & Development was established in November
2009 with a mandate to work with the Premier and the Cabinet to address the
critical issues facing the industry, Premier McKeeva Bush told the Caymanian
Compass. The ultimate goal, said the premier, was to increase the sustainable
economic benefits of tourism to the people of the Cayman Islands.

“The [council]
will be examining various sectors of the industry and determining, for example,
what needs to be done to positively impact fundamental areas such as
employment, entrepreneurship, revenues to the country, and incomes to
individuals, companies and organisations; as well as looking at ways in which
visitation to the country – both air and cruise – can be increased from our
targeted demographic profiles,” he said.

Mr. Bush
explained that for almost a decade, the National Tourism Management Policy and
other internal and external reports have acknowledged that from a macro perspective
the industry was not as efficient or streamlined as it should be.

“Given its
fundamental role as the second driver of our local economy, tourism must have a
clear strategic plan to reverse the negative trends and leverage this industry
for the benefit of the country and our visitors,” he said.

Quid pro quo

Mr. Glidden
said the global economic crisis had affected the tourism industry worldwide but
conversely there was an opportunity to re-evaluate, rationalise and reform the
sector.

“The council
is determined to start with a virtually clean slate and engage in those things
that add strategic value to the triple bottom line – environmental, social and
economic metrics –  and as such the days
of low value legacy programmes and quid pro quo decision making in tourism must
end,” said Mr. Glidden.

He continued
that the ministerial council would be looking at ways to create a stronger
international brand for Cayman, and would work closer with financial services,
development and commerce.

“In light of
the country’s dire financial situation, our most pressing and immediate need is
to focus on increasing the efficiency and return on investment on the government’s
investment and expenditures in tourism, and this means we will be working with
agencies and Government owned entities and Departments, to identify savings,
efficiencies and synergies in the proposed 2010/11 budget,” explained Mr. Glidden.

Tourism Advisory Council

The
newly-reactivated Tourism Advisory Council, chaired by ex-Cayman Islands Tourism
Association president Karie Bergstrom and eight other private sector representatives,
is intended to represent all areas of the tourism industry in the private
sector.

The Tourism
Advisory Council will provide the Ministerial Council for Tourism and Development
with ‘a direct, representative and consultative link to the broader tourism industry
private sector.’ It was structured in this way to maximise the advisory
council’s ability to contribute, said ministerial council member Jude Scott.

“In reviewing
the industry dynamics over the past 20 years, it appears that there has been a
fundamental deficiency in the area of objective representation. Historically,
there have been multiple disparate individuals and groups who organize and
clamour for a share of voice, openly pursuing their own self interest, without
accountability or due regard for the rest of the industry.

“In this time
of national crisis, the tourism industry does not need another narrow special
interest lobby group – it needs an objective, representative group acting on
behalf of the nine broad sectors of the tourism industry – one that is able to
provide meaningful feedback, assist with identifying practical solutions and
can develop a sustainable approach for deriving success from this tourism
industry for the good of the people of the Cayman Islands,” he said.

Although the
ministerial council will still meet with other private sector groups, the
Tourism Advisory Council will be the primary consultative group between the
government and the private sector. Ms. Bergstrom will be initially meeting with
the ministerial council initially on a monthly basis.

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The Tourism Advisory Council will be taking a close look at what needs to be done to increase the number of cruise ship and air arrivals in the country, as well as help identify deficient areas in the industry.
Photo: File
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