Cayman must be proactive in its safety and security before tourism is affected.
Karie Bergstrom of the Tourism Advisory Council warned that action must be taken to address the issue immediately.
“I firmly believe that as a country we can’t sit and wait and rely on statistics to show there is a declining trend in the safety of the Islands because in my opinion at that point it is too late,” she said. “If those numbers decline to a point that it impacts our tourism, and every other industry, at that point it is too late. We have to work proactively to support the police and work in a manner that will allow us to make sure we do not get to those numbers.”
People were prone to look to crime statistics as a catalyst, she said, but it was important not to allow things to get to the stage where figures were obviously negative.
“Statistics are good when they show we are improving and working and they are good to follow but my point is that we should not sit down, be complacent and let those statistics get in your face,” Ms Bergstrom said. “It is everybody’s business and everybody needs to take part in this. If we say, as an example, that we’ve had a 20 per cent increase in robberies that is really bad; for me I would want to know how many tourists were impacted by that because we still have to be concerned about word of mouth. It is our No. 1 marketing tool.”
Tourism can assist
The Tourism Advisory Council represents all sectors of the tourism industry and advises the government through the Ministerial Council for Tourism. Ms Bergstrom said that there have already been moves made to discuss how the industry could assist in the security arena.
“We have had issues, and to me it’s almost in a cycle, which is certainly clearly attached to the economic environment that we live in,” she said. “I know that the Premier recently came out with a Crime Prevention Strategy. The Tourism Advisory Council has gone back to our members and asked for ideas on how we can support Royal Cayman Islands Police force and government and what we can help them do.”
She said the Department of Tourism had informed the council of their intent to work more closely with the media to make sure that reporting was factual in the event of a crime.
“[They are] working to get the right thing out there; we are not sticking our heads in the sand or trying to cover everything up,” she said. “It is the reality and [we cannot] try to cover up and not accept that. We have to try and be proactive with what we can do about it otherwise we will wake up one morning and it will be too late.”
The responsibility for crime reporting and safety of the Islands is a shared social one which affects everybody in the Cayman Islands, said Ms. Bergstrom.
“Safety is everybody’s business; we cannot sit back and say this all sits in the hands of government and the Royal Cayman Islands Police Force,” she said. “If you see something suspicious don’t be afraid – there are avenues in which you can report this on an anonymous level.”
Development and re-energisation
The council has also put its support behind future developments including the planned hospital by Dr. Shetty, said the council chairman.
“We are very excited about the announcement and look forward to see how we can support moving into that medical tourism arena,” she said. “It is a whole new industry for us, we are well positioned to make that happen and now we need to ensure that as industry private partners we do what we can to help.”
As more information comes out about the ForCayman Investment Alliance, the council is ready to input into that situation too, she added.
“I also work on economic impact in countries and I know full well that economic stimulus is extremely important to every country when you are in a recession,” she said. “Just sitting back and leaving it to government to do is a bit irresponsible.
“It is too early for us to say exactly how this whole deal will come together … but we are willing and able to give feedback and hear more about what is happening. It would be good to see something done to that [Courtyard Marriott] site. Any time we can see that a site is redeveloped and re-engerised it is a win-win for all around.” Ms Bergstrom said it was important to place Cayman in context with the regional situation at the moment.
“Certainly we have got sectors we need improving on, we need to get something done with the dock and the berthing,” she said. “We have to get that moving forward as we are missing out on the legacy vessels. We just need to do it. All the Caribbean is struggling. I travel the Caribbean and I see what the other islands are going through. I am very happy with the way that we are moving and happy with the things I am seeing.”