Quick, Cayman: Lay out the good napkins and set extra places at the table. Unexpected guests are coming – 250,000 of them.

Over the next six months, our country has booked an additional 70 cruise calls, as ships are being diverted from the eastern Caribbean due to destruction wrought by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

We in the Cayman Islands derive no pleasure from the circumstances leading to the upcoming influx of visitors, and we as a country continue to send emergency personnel, workers, aid and prayers to the people picking up the pieces in our sister British Overseas Territories and other islands. We have experienced firsthand the devastation of a major storm, and we are conscious of the fact that, with seven weeks remaining in the 2017 hurricane season, we too could become the unlucky victims of a major catastrophe.

Nevertheless, the arrival of additional cruise tourists, stayover visitors, conference attendees and longer-term guests (such as the hundreds of financial services workers displaced by the storms) does present an opportunity for Cayman to put on our best face (and that includes our smiles) and welcome into our country people who may never have thought about coming here before.

As we related in a front-page story in Wednesday’s newspaper, public officials and businesses are already seeing the impact of the extra visitors, who are arriving at a time when Grand Cayman happens to be in a bit of a “Pardon our dust” condition, with several major construction projects under way.

For example, the Owen Roberts International Airport is in the midst of an expansion/renovation/metamorphosis. The Esterley Tibbetts Highway is teeming with orange cones and unfinished lanes. A symmetrical situation is occurring on the Linford Pierson Highway, and to a somewhat more minor extent, on Crewe Road.

While those enhancements and expansions are occurring, “poor old” West Bay Road is pockmarked with potholes, perhaps as a result of increased traffic from heavy construction vehicles.

When it comes to renovation projects, people are usually quite understanding about the inevitable but temporary inconveniences that accompany construction. However, we should be looking proactively to “spruce up the place” wherever possible. After all, company is coming.

We have recently published stories on teams of volunteers convening to pluck garbage from beaches, to put a fresh coat of paint on a historic schoolhouse, and to clean up the roadside in West Bay. Well done. That’s the spirit!

But we cannot rely on volunteers to maintain order in our public places and corridors. That is the remit of the public sector. Our government should consider diverting, targeting and/or expediting resources to ensure that Cayman is in shipshape condition to receive our expected guests.

And that’s what these visitors are – our guests. Everyone in our community has a role to play as host or hostess, and that means collectively putting our best foot forward aesthetically, and also being on our best behavior as individuals.

We “locals” may have our personal and petty differences, but surely we can all agree on that.

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  1. From tragedy in the other islands, comes opportunity for Cayman. We still don’t have the type of cruise ship docks to welcome these visitors. Had action been taken years ago, the downtown could handle the influx of ships. The businesses are hardly acceptable or offer a variety of high end, unique goods unavailable elsewhere. The infrastructure isn’t exactly ready for the hoards of tourists vehicles or taxi’s either. The beaches everywhere, even North side should be getting a sprucing. Lot’s of work, that should have been done on a regular basis, but has been ignored. Tourists come all year long. Now that Cayman will have an onslaught of travelers, cleaning is taking place now. Big deal.

  2. Why it is all about visitors? More trash, more waste water, more traffic.

    There is “Tourism Concern”, a charity registered in the UK (charity number 1064020).
    Their Mission:
    To ensure tourism always benefits local people by challenging bad practice and promoting better tourism.