Editorial for September 1: Left behind

A
small story in Monday’s Caymanian Compass should serve as a sobering reminder
that the Cayman Islands can no longer rest on its laurels.

The
article cited a report that indicated there are 137 hotels – more than 17,000
rooms – under construction or in the planning phase in the Caribbean and Mexico
region.  More than half of those rooms
are actually under construction, providing jobs and economic activity to the communities
in which they are located.

A
good portion of the hotels in the works are in Mexico, which is seeing this
kind of development despite drug cartel violence that has spread to
tourists.  Other places that are seeing
hotel development include Puerto Rico, Barbados and the Dominican Republic.

There
is obviously an appetite for developers to build hotels in the Caribbean
region, and it’s interesting to note that about one-fifth of that development
is considered upscale hotels, Cayman’s ideal market.  Yet here in Cayman, not only is there little
tourism development going on right now, several developers have cancelled or
indefinitely delayed planned hotel or condotel projects.

That’s
not actually surprising when you think about it. Building and labour costs in
Cayman are much higher than in most places and they got even higher when duties
and fees were increased earlier this year.

In
addition, the people and governments in most places in the region welcome big
developments with open arms because they know they will positively impact
economic activity.  Here in Cayman,
announcements of new developments are often met by scorn and accusations of
illegal kickbacks, dire environmental consequences and the claim that Cayman
will be overrun by foreigners.  Should
the government suggest offering incentives like import duty reductions or waivers
– as are offered elsewhere – the outcry reaches a fevered pitch and inevitably
results in the assertion that Cayman doesn’t need to give incentives because
developers want to be here.

That
kind of outdated thinking is causing Cayman to be left behind in the region
when it comes to tourism development.  If
Cayman is to be a high-end tourism destination going forward, our government
and people had better find out what it is that all our regional neighbours are
doing so right, or what Cayman is doing so wrong.

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