Students debate for $1,000 World Tourism Day prize


Four local students will debate tourism initiatives on Friday during the World Tourism Day “speak-off” at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort, vying for a $1,000 prize and a one-year appointment as a local tourism ambassador. 

The event is part of global activities scheduled for World Tourism Day – observed Sept. 27 – promoting an industry that counted 1.2 billion travelers in 2012, and promoting “sustainable” practices worldwide. 

The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism will host the “speak-off” debate, which runs from noon to 2 p.m. in the hotel’s Orchard Ballroom. Organizers expect 150 guests to attend. 

The gathering “focuses on developing youth ambassadors for tourism, crowning the debate winner as the official tourism representative for a one-year period and affording him/her opportunities throughout their reign to participate in various tourism-related initiatives,” according to the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism. 

The genesis of this year’s annual event came this summer when the department invited anyone between the ages of 14 and 17 to submit essays on how more Caymanians might be encouraged to join the tourism industry. 

“We received 75 essays,” said Dianne Conolly, the department’s coordinator for tourism training and development, “and we made a selection of four finalists.” 

The quartet are Anitha Velusamy, 16, from Cayman Brac’s Layman Scott High School; Jade Ramnarine, 15, from George Town’s Cayman Prep and High School; and Katie Scott and Ryan Burke, both 16, both from West Bay’s Grace Christian Academy. 

“They will have a debate and will make their points, why they think something should be done – much like at a Cabinet meeting when you bring a paper,” Ms Conolly said. 

The four will address three topics at the forum, two of them set and the last “a mystery topic,” she said.  

The first is multi-generational travel, probing the benefits and opportunities that mixed groups of tourists, families and otherwise, might explore. 

The second topic will be Caribbean agri-tourism, which Ms Conolly likened to Cayman’s annual Agriculture Show.  

“We invite tourists to sample local products, local cooking and ingredients, to see what foods are grown locally,” she said. “We also acquaint people with ‘bush medicine,’ local remedies, things like aloe and fever grass.” Local food festivals, she said, were another aspect of agri-tourism, “so people can come and observe.” 

The third debate subject, she indicated, would be a surprise, “a mystery topic,” forcing the speakers to improvise. Nonetheless, she offered a broad hint: “It will be something in line for World Tourism Day, something related to water.”  

The theme of the 2013 World Tourism Day is “Tourism and Water: Protecting our Common Future,” consistent with the UN-declared International Year of Water Cooperation. 

“The winner will also get a Cayman Airways ticket and will go to events like the Cayman Cookout,” Ms Conolly said. “Because they are working with CITA, they will also attend their events. It’s a year-round opportunity to learn about tourism and to learn public speaking.  

“They will become our ambassador to each event,” she added.