Department of tourism statement refuted

“A cop-out,” says CMEA president

Statements included in a news release issued by the Department of Tourism on Friday, 5 August, in response to an article that ran on the front page of the 25 July edition of the Caymanian Compass have been refuted by Cayman Music and Entertainment President Jean-Eric Smith. 

According to the DOT’s statement, Mr. Smith’s assertion that the Tourism Advisory Council is only made up of only food and beverage purveyors is incorrect. 

“While it is correct that members of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA) comprise the vast majority of the TAC membership, it is incorrect that they are all food and beverage purveyors as claimed by the President of the Cayman Music and Entertainment Association … The fact of the matter is that CITA’s membership is representative of Cayman’s tourism industry sectors; therefore it follows that a majority of the TAC membership would be comprised of CITA members. Nevertheless, membership on TAC has much more to do with years of tourism experience, than it does the sector in which a member works.” 

Other sectors represented on the TAC include water sports, events and weddings, hotel and attractions, as well as a marketing consultant. 

When asked to comment on this reality, Mr. Smith said, “We respect any other entity serving on the Council and but we feel that the Cayman Music and Entertainment Association should be represented as well. Other sectors are fine, but they do not represent our particular interests as musicians and entertainers. It needs to be equal influence across all sectors,” Mr. Smith said. 

He said that currently the CMEA falls under the remit of food and beverage, as it relates to the TAC, and therefore has to report to who the “rep” is in that regard. 

“We have been grouped under a food and beverage subheading and have to deal with a middle man when what we deserve is a voice like everyone else. If there is any respect or regard for us, as was stated in the release, then put us on the Council.” 

With regard to the statement from the DOT that criteria for membership on the TAC is based more on experience than sector, Mr. Smith said he could not help but feel hurt by such a statement. 

“I have been around Cayman’s tourism product my whole life, training at the Hyatt, where I was a mentor for young managers, as well as a night auditor and accounts clerk. I was also assistant controller at the Grand Pavilion Hotel, before leaving to play live music at Silvers Night Club and Lounge. In fact, I have been playing live music in the Cayman Islands since the age of 11. I am also the founder of the Cayman Craft Market. For someone to point to lack of experience being a hindrance from serving on the Council in respect to me is not fair in my opinion.” 

In relation to the Cayman Jazz Festival and statements made by the CMEA president to the effect that the festival could have been better assisted as a result of input from the CMEA, the statement from the DOT stated, “The President of CMEA undertook to write a letter to the Premier giving input on the jazz festival and in regards to a review of CMEA’s constitution.  

“The understanding was that the purpose of the letter they were to submit, went beyond the specific points mentioned; it was to show seriousness of purpose on their part, as they had made an approach for a more active and meaningful partnership with Government, and were told that a letter from them could serve as the beginning of a more serious relationship. To date, no such letter has been received from CMEA.”  

In attempting to explain the events surrounding the failure to submit such a letter, Mr. Smith maintained that it was much too late at that point. 

“That meeting took place in October of 2010, after the Cayman Jazz Festival was cancelled. By the time we were tapped for our input the festival had lost years of equity. If we had not been an after thought, we could have advised the government to simply postpone the festival, and not loose the momentum of past years.” 

The CMEA president went on to point out that if a festival does not take place for one year, then it has to start over from scratch to build is annual credibility, which would not have been the case in the instance of postponement. 

Mr. Smith said he did want to give kudos to the DOT for their assistance with a website for artists and entertainers, which is “ongoing”. He also applauded their efforts in assisting with the Annual Music Festival and regional trips, but urged that, “until we as musicians and entertainers have the ability to affect policy, we are not having our concerns properly addressed.” 

In the DOT’s statement, the department also made it clear that TAC does not make policy and only advises.  

“The President of CMEA appears to suggest that the Ministry of Tourism’s policy could prescribe that live music must be played at hotels and other establishments. This of course is not possible, as a private business must decide what entertainment, if any, it wants to offer its customers. It is also incorrect to say that TAC makes policy for musicians and entertainers.” 

Mr. Smith said it is correct that the government can not tell hotels who to hire, but they can assist in a minimum wage for bands and other issues that are policy driven. “Anything less is a cop-out,” he urged. 

A statement from the Department of Tourism Public Relations Manager Gina Matthews in response to Mr. Smith’s rebuttal read, “…. given that a statement was issued on Friday which clearly presents the Premier’s view and Ministry’s position and highlights the fact that we remain open to working with performing artistes and producers, we have no further comments to add.” 

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CMEA President Jean-Eric Smith at the recent Muzaic Festival. – PHOTO: STUART WILSON
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