Casino debate called for

A debate on casinos and gambling is
being planned by the Cayman Islands Tourism Association.

“We want to have some debate and
conversation so we are looking to get a panel together, probably in August,”
said Trina Christian, executive director of the private sector lobbying and
marketing group.

In early June, Premier McKeeva Bush
told a TV station that he was planning a vote in November to settle the
controversial subject of gaming in the Cayman Islands, but no referendum has
been called.

While the tourism association does
not hold a position for or against gaming, it would like to see the issue
discussed openly, Ms Christian said.

“We want our members to hear about
it and be more educated. It’s not just about the moral values of whether it’s
right or wrong but whether it fits with our brand, whether it would be
sustainable, what type of gaming and so on. We wanted our members to be more
informed before any referendum took place. I feel like we don’t have enough
knowledge about it.

“If a developer [for example]
wanted to come in, of course [their argument] would be one-sided, so if we can
establish knowledge before something like that would take place it would be a
much better approach,” said Ms Christian, who added that the association would
seek to invite speakers both in favour of and against the issue.

Strategy

The tourism association, which
represents more than 200 Cayman Islands businesses, held its strategy meeting
Thursday, 24 June, in which it laid out its aims for the short and long term.

The board discussed the cost of
doing business in the Cayman Islands, and while the association said it
believes that the government is generally pro-business, the budget address presented
some issues.

“We want business people to be
responsible and to be conscious of our society and environment, but if you put
up roadblocks that are unnecessary and it costs them more [to operate], it’s
something we’d like to continually keep in check.

“The increase of 25 cents per
gallon on fuel is a cost that will be passed on. [In the hotel industry] we’re
already in a position where we’ve lowered our room rates, but the cost of doing
business has not got lower in any shape or form.

“Businesses have been stretched for
quite some time and if you’re already struggling and trying to maintain things
just so you can get by, I worry about this being the straw that breaks the
camel’s back. It’s certainly a challenge already,” said Ms Christian.

Increasing the duty on cars that
are less fuel-efficient or increasing fees to allow people to make smarter
environmental or sustainable choices could be an alternative, she said.

“If there are people choosing to be
more wasteful or have vehicles and products that are less efficient, then tax
them, which would either make them act smarter or give you the revenue that you
need. But to tax across the board feels less fair.”

The tourism association believes
that people would be more receptive to such a duty, which is allied to sustainability
issues, said Ms Christian, who added that room rate integrity was at risk in
order to retain competitiveness.

Immigration issues

The association is also concerned
about the rollover policy, which it said has meant the loss of tourism professionals
unnecessarily since there is no such thing as key employee status in the
hospitality sector.

“People in the workforce who offer
a good service, who care about the destination and are committed to the product
and serving the customer are crucial to our return visitor rate because there
are people who will come back only because they have a relationship with people
who work at that property.

“Whether that’s a group who have
developed a trusting relationship with their meeting planner or it’s the
omelette lady [the principle is the same],” said Ms Christian.

The association is also keen to
develop the Caymanian workforce, she added.

“We spoke [at the strategy session]
about students and the elderly being areas of opportunity and we feel it’s
actually been increased by the economic downturn. Hospitality maybe wasn’t as
attractive or appealing before, but with people looking to broaden the scope of
things or get a job if they’ve been unemployed, the industry may be more
attractive,” she said.

She said plans are under way to
hold a career fair on World Tourism Day, 27 September.

“It’s so we can expose all ages to
what [the tourism sector] is about. We hope to get a lot of the schools there
because a lot of the kids think of tourism being taxi drivers, housekeepers on
cruise ships, or the Department of Tourism, and they don’t realise the career
growth and breadth of work that’s available in the industry,” said Ms Christian.

She added that the association
would like to see a true Economic Impact Assessment undertaken by the
government in relation to tourism so that specific, reliable and verifiable figures
could be available. The last assessment was undertaken by CITA in 2003.

1 COMMENT

  1. Uggh. PLEASE, no casinos. One reason the I travel with my family to Cayman every year is no gambling. It attracts a different type of tourist. If I want to gamble, I can go to Las Vegas or the Bahamas for half the cost of Cayman.

  2. I agree with Buck1017 that I would not like to see SMB turned into the Vegas strip – but I do see the possible benefits in having restricted gaming here in Cayman. However some of these benefits for residents and busineses may be to see additional revenues for government so as to defray costs and increased fees – but oops – to late – increased fees have already happened – so residents would not see these benefits anyway!