Leveraging record tourism arrivals to create greater jobs and business opportunities for Caymanians is among the key aims of a new five-year plan for the industry, according to Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell.
The plan, which tourism chiefs will present at a series of public meetings over the next few weeks, also looks at the demands the influx of new tourists is putting on the islands’ infrastructure and attractions.
Mr. Kirkconnell told the Cayman Compass that arrival numbers were likely to continue to grow in the short term, with another new record of 425,000 visitors forecast for 2018.
“Part of our responsibility is to make sure our citizens see the opportunities taking place,” he said.
“We are encouraging people to come here, we are encouraging people to build more rooms, to go east and do more in those outlying areas. If we do all of that and we don’t put our people in a position to take advantage of those opportunities, then we have failed.”
He said tourism jobs, including jobs at government-owned companies like Cayman Airways, the Cayman Turtle Centre and the airports authority, were already the cornerstone of a strong middle class on the island.
But he believes more can be done to link the next generation of Caymanians to careers in the industry.
He said the tourism school was helping to prepare school-leavers for entry-level careers or further education. And the ministry is also partnering with U.S.-based Johnson & Wales University to offer hospitality scholarships.
The plan also looks to develop a financial and mentoring model to incentivize Caymanians to seek business opportunities in tourism, as well as creating a better link between scholarships and career paths in Cayman’s tourism industry.
Mr. Kirkconnell said the perception of tourism jobs was changing.
“The airlines need pilots, hotels need HR, legal advice, engineers for the plant, marketing. It is not just about checking in hotel guests,” he said.
The National Tourism Plan, 2018-2022, was produced by consulting firm Solimar International in collaboration with the ministry and is designed to provide a framework for managing the development of tourism to achieve “greater inclusivity and greater sustainability.”
Mr. Kirkconnell said that means ensuring the Cayman Islands is equipped to cater to the arriving hordes of tourists.
“This process gave us a golden opportunity to look at how we grow arrivals in sync with the number of rooms available and the number of airplane seats and the quality of the infrastructure and attractions,” he said. “This document starts tying up all those elements and looks at trigger points for the next phases of development.”
With a new Hyatt resort planned and the Dart group seeking to build at least two new hotels, the tourism minister believes the presence of major brands in the islands will insulate Cayman against the potential impact of a decline in the U.S. economy.
“I think if the bricks and mortar are there, not only does that provide the platform for a number of jobs, it means there are developers with hundreds of millions of dollars invested in room stock that they are going to be working extremely hard to fill.”
The tourism plan has been presented to caucus and to opposition members, as well as at community meetings in the Sister Islands.
Grand Cayman residents will get their first opportunity to see the presentation and provide feedback in Bodden Town on Wednesday.