There are people all around the world who literally have a piece of the Cayman Islands in their living room.
But souvenirs, be they from the craft market, an art gallery or even a rum cake shop, can be more than just a throwaway reminder of a visit.
Acting director of tourism, Shomari Scott, said that a souvenir from Cayman represents more than just an artefact.
“It’s very powerful because it’s all about experiences. The fact that somebody has carried a piece of Cayman back to where they are from is a conversation piece.
When they taste that Tortuga rum cake, and it’s the best thing they’ve ever tasted, the conversation [is about the fact that they bought it] in the Cayman Islands.
“Then of course they’re going to speak about their emotional connection with the Cayman Islands – when they were here on vacation, what a great time they had.”
Perhaps the most famous example of Cayman export success is the well-established Tortuga Rum Company; the world’s first commercial rum cake still holding its own despite competition and imitation from other companies and territories who are keen to tap into the company’s great success.
As well as the rum cakes being available throughout the Caribbean, the United States and also exported to businesses in the United Kingdom, Tortuga has also been exporting its branded rum to the United States for five years.
Robert Hamaty noted that presence there is important despite the difficulties of fighting against the giants of Bacardi and others who have multi-million dollar marketing budgets.
Cayman’s size precludes manufacturing rum directly on-island and a blend of business metrics including high costs labour, import duty and manufacturing costs also add complexity.
“Because of the growth of the company we’re also known as ‘Tortuga the taste of the Caribbean’. [After a request from the cruise ships we] developed a package called Tortuga Caribbean rum cake – that box goes into all the other islands in CARICOM.
“But because we’re a British territory, if we ship it into the other Caribbean countries it’s dutiable but if Barbados does it, it’s duty free.
So we had to open up the franchise to achieve the price point for the rest of the Caribbean. Tortuga’s future is that it will eventually become a taste of the Cayman Islands in somebody’s home; whether it’s our cake, our sauces, our fudge, our rum.”
Dready artist Shane Aquart said that when people buy a piece of art in Cayman it ends up on their wall for a long time.
“Every time you see it it’ll be seen with a memory of Cayman attached; it’s not as fleeting as another souvenir, not tucked away in a drawer or eaten as a delicious dessert.
It’s there, for life and in your face on the wall.”
Therein lies the crux of the tourism value of a product, explained James Mansfield of Caybrew.
“It’s a good reinforcement of the time they’ve had here and they’d probably share it with friends – show them pictures of the Cayman Islands whilst drinking a local beer.”
Caybrew’s products were until recently available in Tampa and since changing a distributor the company has now had requests from Texas, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Florida and Illinois, added Mansfield.
On a similar note, Cayman microdistillery Seven Fathoms recently signed an import deal with Luxe Vintages, which enables their product to get onto the shelves in the United States.
Co-founder Nelson Dilbert explained that the tourism value of the product was inherent within it.
“As a rum there’s a unique story behind it and people can talk about the product and the story, too.
We are Cayman’s first locally-produced spirit and the first rum in the world to age the product under the ocean – at 42 feet which is seven fathoms where it is rocked back and forth by the currents and tides, allowing for a very even process and almost a breathing effect which gives a deeper penetration of the barrel.”
Much like Tortuga, a presence and availability outside Cayman is also a reminder that Cayman is a producer and exporter of unique products other than sand, sea and stingrays.
Fundamentally, whether a single souvenir or an actual product available through retail, the more presence Cayman products have abroad, the better, said Shomari Scott.
In the modern era the advent of instant widespread online communication through sites like Facebook and Twitter as well as blogs and the like has expanded the possibility of conversations about Cayman.
“As much marketing that we do, we know that word of mouth is the most important marketing that we have.
Social media has been one of the best things for tourism in that it takes that one-on-one conversation that you may have had with 20 of your friends.
Now, if it’s a great experience, [online] you can speak to 20,000 or 30,000 or in the millions.”