Tourism bosses say they are disappointed with the content of the recent BBC documentary on the Cayman Islands.
The Department of Tourism, through its London office, helped arrange some of the interviews for the production, “Britain’s Trillion Pound Island.”
Director Rosa Harris said it had come to the department as a query from Chalkboard productions about a lifestyle-type show.
“The Department of Tourism did not sponsor it. We were merely a facilitator of the program. It is unfortunate. We are all disappointed in terms of the tone and what was showcased for the brand and the destination.”
She said the Department of Tourism had simply passed on the request from the production company, which had filmed a program in 2014 on Brits living in the Cayman Islands.
“That’s when the advancement of covering Cayman more came about with the lifestyle platform, which obviously was under the disguise of trying to unearth a tax haven,” she added.
“Chalkboard reached out to numerous persons. We passed on information but didn’t get involved. It was only after the fact that we were aware of what the storyline actually was,” she said.
It is understood that the production company had initially planned a reality-style show about people with British links living in Cayman. It was only after the show was taken on by the BBC that the theme was altered to include the “tax haven” angle and journalist Jacques Peretti came on board to again interview some of the participants. Cayman officials do have the power through the Film Commission to reject permits for productions if the content could be damaging to the destination.
“If it is not a good fit for the destination and we are aware of it, we would treat it in that manner and advise accordingly,” said Ms. Harris. “We would never do anything damaging to our brand.”
There is a downside, however, to refusing access to film crews, no matter what their agenda. Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell suggests government would be reluctant to deny access to film crews based on content.
He added, “I think if the DoT or government had said ‘I’m sorry, you can’t come and do a story here in Cayman about financial centers or tax havens’ or whatever, you can imagine the negative publicity the Cayman Islands could have gotten from that.”
He said the challenge now is to turn a negative into a positive and parlay the name recognition and spectacular images that came out of the documentary into a tourism marketing opportunity.
“We are where we are,” Mr. Kirkconnell said. “The story is out. It’s obviously created a stir here and quite a few people have commented on it.
“What we have to understand is how we can use this to our advantage, having Cayman globally seen. If we follow that up in a positive light, we believe it can help us from that standpoint.”