Editorial for 03 May, 2011: Osama bin Laden’s legacy

There are people all over the world this week celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden, a man hunted for more than a decade for organising terrorist acts that resulted in the deaths of thousands of people.

Although the celebration of the forceful death of any human being creates a moral dilemma for some people, most people are glad to know bin Laden won’t be organising any more acts of terrorism.

There is no denying the effects bin Laden and his al-Qaida terrorist network have had on the rest of the world, particularly since the 9/11 attacks on the United States in 2001. Since that time, travelling has become increasingly difficult. In the US, many civil liberties, a historical cornerstone of American life, eroded.

The Cayman Islands have felt the effects as well, starting in the jittery days after 9/11 when cancelled flights, bomb and anthrax scares and suspicions about the three mysterious Afghan refugees who came to our shores led the news.

But there have been more lasting effects as well. In 2001 before 9/11, the Cayman Islands was heading for a record-setting year for stayover tourism. Since 9/11, only once – in July 2004 – have the monthly stayover tourism figures surpassed those in the period between September 2000 and August 2001. In a nutshell, our stayover tourism has never fully recovered.  

In addition, because the government of the day decided to offset the post-9/11 stay-over tourist decline by courting more cruise ship calls, Cayman has changed as a tourism destination. In 2000, a little more than a million cruise passengers visited Grand Cayman, and that number was 1.2 million in 2001.  Since that time, at least 1.5 million cruise passengers have visited Cayman every year, fundamentally changing the tourism product here.

Then there’s all the anti-terrorism measures pushed on the financial services industry by the US and other global regulators since 9/11, leading to increased costs and hassles for everyone.

Even though bin Laden is now dead, the legacy of negative changes he and al Qaeda caused will likely continue to be felt indefinitely.