Tourism Association stays neutral in port debate

The Cayman Islands Tourism Association is maintaining a neutral stance in the ongoing debate over government’s plans for new cruise piers in George Town harbor.

With the industry appearing to be split over the controversial proposal, CITA president Theresa Leacock-Broderick said it was impossible to come to a position that represented a genuine consensus. The association released a brief public statement Wednesday, saying it had a diverse membership that included businesses focused on both stay-over and cruise tourism. It said the board of directors had taken the decision to remain neutral and help facilitate access to information for its members to make their own decisions.

Ms. Leacock-Broderick told the Cayman Compass in an email, “With fair and equal recognition of the range of feedback and interests across all our sectors, the board understands that it cannot find nor take one singular stance on either side of this matter that truly represents a collective position of the Association’s members. Thus, the Board’s position of neutrality, and its intention to facilitate our members’ access to information, rather than think that we can make a decision for our members.”

She said CITA’s understanding from comments made by tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell, was that the business case and environmental impact study on the project would be updated once a preferred bidder is selected and before any final contract is signed. At that point, with more information available about costs and other factors, she said CITA’s members would be in a better position to take an informed position.

“We expect that if this Government is to remain consistent with their stated commitment to transparency, the updated documents will be shared with the public,” she said. “From that point, we hope ultimately that the views of the constituency and the larger community of stakeholders will be taken into consideration before Cabinet makes a final decision.”

CITA had previously come out against the port project in a statement in 2015. Ken Hydes, who was president at the time and remains on the board of directors as immediate past president, said that position reflected a marginal vote among the membership at the time. He said it was a smart approach for the association to avoid taking a stance now.

“Different times have different results,” he said.

“That was a painful process. There was certainly division over it and it came to a point where it became counterproductive. We agreed that if we ever came to a point where there was no clear consensus, we would take a neutral position and let our membership effectively vote their conscience and speak as freely as they want to on an individual level.”

CITA’s membership, even within its board of directors, is diverse. It includes representatives of businesses like Sunset House and the tender operators who stand to lose out as a result of the cruise port, as well as downtown retailers, the Cayman Turtle Center and the transport sector that have been among its greatest advocates.

Mr. Hydes said it was a sensible and responsible position for the board to avoid alienating one section of its membership, and remain united and focused on the broader goals of improving Cayman’s tourism product.

“The last thing we need is to end up with a fragmented association. We have a solid, working team and it is important to keep that in place.”