Bush: Setting the record straight on South America

Then-Premier McKeeva Bush, second from right, during a March 2012 visit to Panama with, from left, Cabinet Minister Mike Adam, Chief Officer Stran Bodden, George Town MLA Ellio Solomon, Bodden Town MLA Dwayne Seymour and Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce President David Kirkaldy.

In the Jan. 4 issue of the Cayman Compass, the minister of tourism (Moses Kirkconnell)* published plans to get a consultant for the South American tourism market.

In that article, the PPM minister tries to make it look like proper work was not done before on the matter of promoting the country in that region. Not so!

The country ought to be sick and tired of the PPM taking credit for work they did not do – projects they opposed – and the finances (surplus) of the country of which they opposed and disrupted the Legislative Assembly!

The facts of the matter are as follows on the South American tourism projects, which as minister of tourism from 2009-2012 I promoted.

The Chamber of Commerce, Cayman Islands Tourism Association and specifically the Marriott, Ritz and Westin were fully on board for our South American strategy which was to use Panama as a hub (Cayman Airways) for targets in places such as Argentina and Brazil which at the time had ever-increasing growth in the wealth of the middle class.

The same reasons the minister has outlined now (it’s winter in South America during our summer months, diversifying the visitor pool, etc.) were the reasons we strategically started building this market. It seems as if after killing the Panama flight and strategy when this government came in, they now are rehashing an important portion of our tourism strategy, which was forward-looking when my government implemented it. All of a sudden now, for political gain, they are going to spend wasted funds on another consultant in order to do exactly what they found in place. Imagine, if they had just kept the course, where we would be now, four years later.

What funds were actually allocated over the last four years to build the visitor numbers (marketing) which we knew would be a process that would take two to four years to bring about awareness in the minds of our potential Latin visitors?

They purposely destroyed a flight that was doing well (at least breaking even) and pulled the plug on the strategy, to now at the 11th hour pretend as if this is his idea, and that he has private sector support that was not there previously. We had buy-in from all the major properties, CITA and the Chamber which is a rarity, and would have made much progress to date, if he had kept to our plan. Maybe he should dust off the plan and just implement it instead of playing politics with another consultant a mere few months before the election occurring.

Here is what they should be doing:

Put back into rotation the Panama flight seasonally during the summer which allows for local traffic for residents and Caymanians as a vacation option, and doubles as the best time for certain Latin American visitors to visit during their winter season.

Why does not the Department of Tourism reengage the contacts that we previously helped to orchestrate from the local hotel brands that had representation within countries such as Argentina and Brazil? Those resources are trusted, knowledgeable and cents on the dollar in regards to costs.

Allocate marketing dollars in order to build the brand of the Cayman Islands as a tourism destination, as we are only known as a financial hub in those countries.

Reengage strategies that I thought were interesting when I heard them; one such proposal was working with a bank that actually lent money to those middle-class persons specifically for vacations, as that is a norm in some of these cities. We would have been the preferred vacation destination and conducted joint campaigns and the such.

The private sector was so on board, I remember being surprised that hoteliers paid their own way and made multiple trips to target cities to partner with the DOT on their strategy and to introduce them to the right on-the-ground partnerships.

We also put Panama in at the same time we put Dallas in with Cayman Airways flights, knowing that we would prove both to be lucrative markets, in order to get American to take over Dallas eventually and Copa to take over Panama. As we have seen, our strategy worked and American took over Dallas; however, they did not allow for the Panama strategy to work. Perhaps if they had left CAL on Panama seasonally and continued the Latin strategy, we would have had Copa flying here today from Panama. Concentrate on that rather than spending more on purchasing rickety Saab aircraft that do not work!

The PPM has never had viable ideas! They have always been good at smearing, and taking credit for the things they opposed and rejected while in opposition. It is now election time 2017 and more and more of the same is coming from them!

Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush

***Editor’s Note: The original version of this letter included an editing error incorrectly identifying the minister of tourism, who is Moses Kirkconnell.***

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2 COMMENTS

  1. How many Latin American tourists did Mr Bush’ grandiose project bring to Cayman. The real facts obvious to most, are that tourists from Central and South America are very unlikely to holiday in the Cayman Islands. Our hotels, restaurants, car hire , air travel,and just about everything else are far more expensive than the U.S.. Florida has far more beaches and just as much sun, but just as important to the Latins, the U.S has great shopping, something we don’t have at all. Does Mr Bush really think his idea was viable?, and the same question can be asked of the current Minister of Tourism.
    As another contributor recently commented , much better to look at ways to make our tourism product more competitive, rather than engage in projects of fantasy.

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