It is the policy of this newspaper to provide space for fair comment to our news articles and opinion pieces, and we welcome Ms. Bennett’s remarks. We would note that before the article was published, we contacted Ms. Bennett for her comments, which she opted to give us in written form and which we included in the original article.
For readers not familiar with the issue at hand, the article and editorial focused on an incident at the airport involving a visitor (and former resident) to Grand Cayman who was returning to the island to marry his fiancée. She was residing here on a work permit.
Following their wedding on the beach, the couple planned to leave Cayman to start their new lives as husband and wife.
The bridegroom, who was traveling with his mother, had in his suitcase, but did not declare on his Customs Declaration Form, his bride’s wedding dress. That’s when the trouble started — and escalated. The mother was crying, and the fiancée who had come to the airport to reunite with her future husband was also in tears.
The narrow issue is whether bridegrooms, or any tourists, entering the country are required to declare and pay duty or deposits on clothing or personal effects which will be worn or used during their visit and taken from the islands when they leave. Do such regulations apply to swimsuits, cosmetics, computers … or Rolexes and expensive diamond jewelry?
If the answer is yes, or even maybe, to the above question, then we might as well shutter our doors as a tourist destination. Clarity — without any nuance or ambiguity — is needed on this policy.
Along with Ms. Bennett’s letter, we are also publishing on Page 5 comments from our readers regarding this incident. Two themes emerge: 1) the impact of this incident on our tourism industry, and 2) the lack of common sense in handling this issue.
Ms. Bennett, conveniently but not wisely, addresses neither in her letter.
We are particularly disturbed at the incongruity of what took place in customs and the Department of Tourism’s “Caymankind” marketing campaign.
Likewise, DOT is also promoting Cayman as a wedding destination. Its website declares, “The Cayman Islands offers something few destinations can match … exquisite natural beauty infused with civility and commitment … tying the knot in this corner of the Caribbean couldn’t be easier.”
Absent from this debate, which is exhibiting all of the symptoms of going viral throughout the international blogosphere, are the voices of our Minister of Tourism Moses Kirkconnell, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, who heads up the Civil Service, and the Cayman Islands Tourism Association.
The implications of this matter are of such consequence to the economy of these islands that we believe Premier Alden McLaughlin needs to speak up as well.
Frankly, policymakers need to invite Ms. Bennett to the Government Administration Building for a little chat.