(CNS): Cayman Islands Tourism Association directors met with government officials recently to talk about the “perspectives and concerns” of the tourism sector, according to a CITA release, though it did not detailed what those concerns are. CITA said its directors discussed “the airport expansion and operations, cruise berthing, taxi regulations, visitor safety, education and employment of Caymanians in tourism, the use and maintenance of public docks and beaches, and challenges unique to the Sister Islands”, but gave no indication what its members are worried about or what the ministry said it would do to alleviate these unspecified concerns.
CITA President Theresa Leacock-Broderick said they were “very encouraged” by Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell’s “receptiveness to our insights and recommendations and his thorough understanding of the issues”. She said that Kirkconnell “is not shying away from any of the challenges and has facilitated our direct dialogue with other relevant government officials”. However, she avoided detailing what the dialogue was really about, though she said there was a “spirit of communication and collaboration”.
Deputy Premier Kirkconnell, who recently boasted about the great success of the overnight tourism sector last year, also dodged explaining what may be troubling the private sector members of the tourism industry. He said he “values and supports collaboration with private sector partners and welcomes opportunities to meet with members… to address common goals and resolve challenges”.
Kirkconnell said he was keen to ensure that benefits derived from the industry’s growth positively impact businesses, stakeholders and the community at large.
There remain some divergent views in the tourism sector, which touches on a wide cross-section of the local economy. Some of the main problems reported to CNS by those working in the sector are the issue of very low wages and the exploitation of both local and expatriate workers. The industry is also divided over the development of the cruise port.
While some tour operators and downtown retailers are keen to see the costly and controversial project get off the ground, many others, such as those from the dive sector and restaurant and bar owners, are more concerned about the environmental damage and the impact on the local infrastructure and attractions, putting at risk the welcome growth in overnight tourism.
The government’s plans to press ahead with the cruise berthing project appear to be moving slowly, but Premier Alden McLaughlin has reaffirmed its commitment to the proposal to construct two piers in the George Town Harbour.
In his most recent public statement, he said that his government was “committed to delivering the cruise berthing and expanded cargo pier needed to safeguard the businesses and jobs that rely on the continued flow of visitors and goods to Grand Cayman”.
Over recent months government has been pivoting towards the need to redevelop the cargo facility as much as the need for piers, but the detail and shape of the financing model for this project remains a mystery. McLaughlin said that the ongoing work currently “includes discussions with cruise companies on the financing model”.