‘High intensity’ campaign to promote cruise port plan

An architect's impression shows how the new cruise pier and cargo port could look.

Government is seeking to hire a public relations firm for a new “high intensity’ campaign to promote its plan for a new cruise berthing facility in George Town harbour.

With more than 80% of the required signatures for a people-initiated referendum now verified by the Elections Office, a public vote on the controversial project is inching closer.

And the Ministry of Tourism is gearing up for a potential vote.

It has put out a Request for Proposals for what it describes as a “public education campaign”.

Details of the likely expense of the campaign are not included in the advert, but government is only required to electronically advertise projects likely to come in at a cost of more than $100,000.

In a response to an open records request in late 2018, government acknowledged that it has retained public relations firm Fountainhead on a $5,000-a-month contract, worth $30,000 through to the end of January as well as spending an additional $25,000 on advertising. The new RFP, advertised to prospective bidders on government’s public purchasing portal, describes the cruise berthing facility as “the largest infrastructure project proposed by the Cayman Islands Government to date”.

It states that government is now in a position to share more information with the public following the selection of the preferred bidder.

Verdant Isle Port Partners was announced last month as the winning bidder on the project, which also involves upgrades to the cargo port and has a total estimated cost of $196.5 million.

The RFP states government’s belief that the project is “likely to be the largest single determinant of the future prospects for cruise tourism in this jurisdiction”.

It indicates the ministry is seeking a “specialist public relations, marketing and advertising agency with strong experience in campaign development and implementation”.

The winning bidder will “provide strategic and tactical marketing communications support for a focussed, persuasive, high intensity public education campaign,” the advert states.

It indicates that government is seeking to step up its public relations campaign, now that the extensive procurement process is reaching its conclusion.

“Government is now in a position where it can embark on a high intensity, comprehensive PR and marketing communications public education campaign to provide information to the public that previously could not be disclosed due to the ongoing procurement process.

“Government’s lawful requirement to keep details of the negotiations confidential until this stage had been reached has led to accusations of lack of transparency and has given rise to misinformation circulating in the community, which this public education campaign will seek to address by providing the facts.”