Tourism cuts United States staff

Downsizing ‘unpleasant yet very important and necessary’

Twelve staff members have been cut
from the Department of Tourism’s United States operations as part of a restructuring
of the department.

Cayman Islands tourism offices in
Miami, Houston and Chicago will also close.

The move was announced by Premier
McKeeva Bush in his budget address and is expected to save the government
US$1.02 million annually.

“The United States consistently
generates approximately 80 per cent of Cayman Islands visitors and receives a
large portion of the Department of Tourism budget. The primary purpose of the
restructuring is to allow the department to allocate and focus resources on those
marketing and promotion activities that will generate the highest and best
return on investment,” said Cline Glidden, chairman of the Ministerial Council
for Tourism and Development, whose responsibilities extend to providing
strategic direction to the Department of Tourism.

Mr. Glidden said the DoT presented
a recommendation for restructuring to the council, which in turn provided
ministry-level approval to proceed. This recommendation, he said, was also in
line with some of the priority issues identified by the Tourism Advisory
Council, a body reactivated this year to advise the government on tourism
issues across all sectors.

“The Government’s current fiscal
challenges compel us to look for ways to do more with less,” Mr. Glidden said.
“The decision to restructure and lay off staff is always a difficult one to
make.”

Closing the three offices reduces
overhead and employee-related costs, he added, describing the task of
downsizing as ‘unpleasant yet very important and necessary.’

The 12 full-time staff will be
replaced by five home-based workers in a revamped structure.

New structure

The new organisational structure
calls for an enhanced strategic focus on web and direct marketing, plus
partnerships with key business drivers.

The five home-based staff will be
specialists in interactive marketing, said Shomari Scott, acting director of
tourism.

“[Their job covers] all sorts of
digital media, including web-based bookings, social networks and other digital
media, because of course technology has now changed the way we do business and
consumers do a lot of their research online and their bookings online.

“Our promotions actually drive
consumers to online landing pages and booking sites. It’s to tie in all of our
marketing efforts so that we get the most out of our marketing mix; TV,
interactive, print, and so on,” said Mr. Scott.

The staff that was cut were mostly
in clerical and administration positions, plus some sales staff, he said, since
the department is concentrating on marketing in specific areas.

“We’ve carved the [department] up
into specialist areas where we know we need the best support in order to be
more aggressive in our efforts, because we know that we have a lot of
competition out there, particularly other Caribbean destinations. This is going
to help us be more robust and be able to respond a lot better [to market conditions],”
he added.

Jamaica, Bahamas and Aruba have all
restructured their own sales and marketing staff in the last few years, said
Mr. Scott. The world has changed significantly in modern times, he said, but
the organisational structure of the Cayman Islands tourism operation in the US
had stayed static for a decade prior to the strategic review that was undertaken.

Home-based

Mr. Glidden said that localised
marketing and sales promotions would continue with the home-based staff.

“These home based representatives
are located in Texas, Florida, Georgia and Illinois and will complement other
home based representatives in the mid-Atlantic and the northeast. The changes
allow Department of Tourism resources to be more effectively deployed toward direct
and web  marketing, industry partnerships
and business development while maintaining a smaller team of marketing
representatives which continue to attend a select number of trade and consumer
shows, as well make qualified sales calls to travel agents,” he said.

Rather than move existing staff
from their offices, Mr. Scott said, the department will recruit new staff
because the interactive marketing roles require specific skills that the 12
staff who lost their jobs did not have.

“In today’s world, with today’s
economic challenges, the department needs a more flexible and robust structure that
will allow for the best return on investment of funds spent,” Mr. Scott said.