The Cayman Islands Tourism Association has presented its membership with a list of six key issues. These are cruise business, immigration, the cost of doing business, stayover tourism/the airport, gaming and the environment. The document was introduced as a basis for discussion at a general membership meeting in January and members are now giving their feedback to the association in a consultation period.
At the meeting each item was discussed briefly with regard to desired outcomes, the role of the association and what could be imminently done to improve or move the discussion forward.
Jane van der Bol is the executive director of the tourism body. She told the Journal that the membership of the association has now been asked to comment, support or question the board initiative document.
“We continue to gather feedback,” van der Bol said.
“Once the information has been accumulated we want to make sure the members feel that we are headed in the right direction. Then it will be put into a document that can be presented to the Ministry of Tourism.”
van der Bol said that a ‘lot of thought’ had gone into the consolation document to get it to this stage.
“We are aware that we are at the beginning of the path. Once we get the feedback we will analyse it and prepare an official document with CITA’s positions on these matters. “It is very important to realise that this was a draft only at this stage as a basis for those discussions.” Interestingly, the document was presented to the membership by former Director of Tourism, Pilar Bush.
“We thought it was wise to have an outside company facilitating the meeting,” van der Bol explained.
“She did a great job keeping the meeting on track as we had a very tight schedule. We went over every point and were able to get comments from the audience.
“We wanted to focus on these top six issues and no others and had just 15 minutes to go through each one initially.”
For each area under discussion, members of the board of directors formed various teams, which gathered data and information. Once feedback has been received, she said, this will go back to board level and a presentable document may be ready by the end of February.
“When finished it does not mean that we can make policy. We may have a position but then we need to work with government to realistically see what can or cannot be done.
“We have asked several government entities to include the association in the process, or serve on boards, be at meetings. CITA can then give a real input into tourism. Opening up these communications with government can only lead to good. [Tourism is] one of the largest sectors of success and finance and it is very important that we are part of the process.”
Vote for tourism
Looming on the horizon is the general election, which van der Bol conceded would mean a change ‘of some kind.’ However, she noted that the topics for discussion may not be affected, no matter who wins the election.
“These are issues that affect everyone,” she continued.
“We may not be able to meet the new government until July or August. Nonetheless, it is vital that CITA addresses the issues. Tourism is all one body that affects Cayman so it needs to be looked at together, including ourselves, the Ministry of Tourism and Department of Tourism.”
The value of tourism, reiterated the executive director, must be acknowledged.
“We are trying to bring this to light. You cannot ignore tourism; it plays such a huge part in Cayman’s success.
“Our goal is to work together with government and non-government entities, which make tourism decisions. We represent the private sector of tourism so we need to play a role in that – we are the ones delivering the product,” she concluded.
The discussion document presented some thinking points for discussion. In terms of cruise tourism, a desired outcome was postulated to improve on and develop new relationships with key cruise stakeholders as well as enhance the guest experience plus the perennial question of a berthing facility. The costs of doing business, fees and tax incentives for new projects were all on the table. The tricky subject of gaming was also discussed, with the association again noting that it did not have a position for or against this due to the lack of information on possible impacts. Indeed, the document read, “the Cayman Islands Tourism Association recognises that gaming is a controversial topic for tourism in the Cayman Islands. The pros and cons of gaming should be carefully weighed before making any such recommendation to the Government.”
The environment was seen as inseparable from the tourism industry, with the Conservation Law, marine parks, grouper protection and lionfish all issues that need to be tackled.
The Cayman Islands Tourism Association’s annual general meeting is Wednesday, 17 April.