From: The Cayman Islands Tourism Association
Subject: Cruise Berthing Facilities
“To give an idea of the visual impact, anyone driving into town from the South side along the waterfront will no longer be able to look West to 7mile beach, you will be looking at a man-made concrete dock structure!”
“This has been nicknamed the ‘plume of death’ — very catchy phrase to attract tourism to Cayman waters don’t you think? Essentially all dive, snorkeling and swim activities throughout George Town waters will no longer be able to co-exist.”
It is language such as this that threatens to erode CITA’s credibility as an organization that is representative of the tourism industry in the Cayman Islands.
The commentary in question (which CITA tried to “recall” after sending) was included in an email, signed by the CITA Executive Office and sent to members June 17, setting the table for the solicitation of opinions, via an attached questionnaire from the Department of Environment, about the cruise dock project proposed for George Town. On July 10, CITA sent out a separate survey of its own that resulted in CITA issuing a statement last Thursday, July 16, that the group “cannot at this time support the current proposal to establish Cruise Berthing Facilities [CBF].”***
The statement went on to say that, “This position has been reached after careful review of the documentation available, individual CITA Sector meetings and a survey of our members where the majority of the respondents indicated that they did not support the current proposal.”
Fair enough. However, brandishing the “plume of death” commentary from CITA’s June email, cruise dock proponents are arguing that, rather than being the outcome of objective analysis, CITA’s position against the project seems to have been preordained. The evidence certainly contributes to that appearance.
In response to the umbrage expressed, CITA is further damaging its reputation by refusing to release details about the results of its survey, or “the information we have learnt through our review of documentation of the current proposal for CBF” that the organization said it will share with government.
CITA’s actions, in this instance and in others, are curious and troubling. The association’s greatest strength, and greatest weakness, is its diversity. CITA has more than 250 members, including hotels, condos, water sports companies, restaurants, tour operators, dive shops, managers of attractions, tourism-associated businesses, etc. — with some members focused on stay-over tourism, some on cruise tourism, and many on both.
While it is vital for CITA to serve as a megaphone for the interests of the tourism sector, CITA is performing a great disservice to itself and its individual members when it issues blanket up-or-down determinations on issues that divide its membership — particularly when those statements have been prefaced by prejudicial commentary (in this case, protecting “the environment”) that is not directly related to CITA’s core function, that is, supporting the tourism industry.
If there does exist within CITA membership an overwhelming opinion against the cruise project, backed by germane reasons such as perceived ill effects on stay-over tourism or concerns over government’s potential financing arrangements, then issuing a strongly worded statement against the cruise dock would be entirely appropriate.
It would be even better, perhaps, for CITA to provide specific information about the nuanced opinions of members, broken out by class and category, along with qualitative testimonials from individual members who are for or against the project, or whose feelings are mixed.
Instead, CITA chose to issue an absolute judgment on behalf of its membership, while admitting that its membership was fractured. And though CITA’s official statement projected the pretense of objectivity and broad-minded analysis, its underlying correspondence to members suggests the opposite.
And that is neither appropriate nor helpful — to CITA, to its membership or to the measured discussion our country should be having about this most serious cruise proposal.
***Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 5 p.m. July 22 to reflect a correction.***