Government defends $55,000 spending on marketing port project

Cruise ships moor off George Town. The Cayman Islands government has spent $55,000 on a publicity campaign to promote the creation of a cruise ship and cargo dock in George Town.

Tourism officials have defended a decision to spend more than $50,000 of public money promoting the controversial cruise and cargo port project.

The spending, revealed in response to an anonymous Freedom of Information request, includes print, radio and social media advertising, as well as a $30,000 six-month contract with public relations firm Fountainhead.

The data was shared with the media last week. The Ministry of Tourism simultaneously released a statement to all media, explaining the rationale behind the expenditure on what it describes as a “public education” campaign.

Stran Bodden, chief officer in the Ministry of Tourism, said the aim was to make the reams of information gathered in the planning stages of the project more accessible to the public.

According to the ministry’s response, a total of $25,292.50 had been spent on advertising for the “Support our Tourism” campaign from August through to the end of November 2018. This includes advertising costs, as well as the creation of a Facebook page and website.

Mr. Bodden said, “Since 2013, a tremendous amount of research, data and other relevant information regarding the cruise berthing project has been posted to the Ministry of Tourism’s website, but over time it has become harder to locate, in between other Ministry-related information. We therefore wanted to provide the public with a more convenient, central location for retrieving the cruise berthing project information.”

Fountainhead was hired on a $5,000-a-month contract to assist with developing and running the campaign. Mr. Bodden said the ministry does not have the resources available internally without outside support.

He added, “We have a single-member of staff handling PR, communications and speech writing for all of the ministry’s portfolios and felt it was prudent to provide additional support so that a high level of public engagement could be consistently maintained for the duration of the campaign. Consequently ‘Support our Tourism’ is being administered by the Ministry’s PR Manager along with her normal daily duties and support from Fountainhead is included within their contracted scope of works.

“The Ministry is not incurring any other costs or salaries with respect to the campaign to date.”