Protecting brand Cayman

| 05/05/2008

By Wendy Ledger (Monday, 5 May 2008)


Yet again, “brand Cayman” is coming under fire with less than
favourable reports coming from many different directions. Just last
week, Members of Parliament in the UK said that offshore financial
centres (OFCs) in its Overseas Territories could seriously damage
Britain’s reputation and called on the Foreign Office to do more to
strengthen regulation, including sending in UK investigators and
prosecutors to such places, and the Treasury Select Committee has also
launched an inquiry into the goings on and the reasons for OFCs.

Add this to the ongoing mystery corruption investigation by Scotland
Yard, and Cayman’s PR gurus are facing some hard times ahead. Nor is
it just Cayman’s reputation concerning finance and corruption that we
need to be concerned about. The public scolding of a gay activist in
Royal Palms last week by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service has
reignited Cayman’s homophobic reputation on the gay and lesbian world

All of these things, alongside the environmental concerns regarding
the soon to open dolphinariums, the trouble at the Cayman Turtle Farm
and other environmental negatives, from road building to our failure
to address recycling issues, have a negative impact on “brand Cayman”
because, to twist a common phrase, “what happens here doesn’tstay

The world is watching and we can no longer afford to simply let people
say what they will about the Cayman Islands and ignore it. “Sticks and
stones may break our bones but words will never hurt us” is nonsense.
Words do hurt us and quite deeply. Tourism is directly impacted by
environmental issues, homophobia, poor customer service, employment
exploitation or any other memorable, but not necessarily pleasant,
events that occur to people visiting here. We need to take a much more
serious approach to protecting “brand Cayman”.

In the era of the World Wide Web, bad news travels faster than wild
fire, and as a nation we need to do far more to improve our image
overseas than we are currently doing. While there are certainly a
number of efforts going into raising our profile as one of the most
compliant OFCs in the world, just one collapsed hedge fund, of which
there have been many lately, is enough to undermine those attempts.

One police incident concerning an over flirtatious gay activist can do
more damage to the arrival stats than a plethora of magazine articles
about destination weddings could ever hope to repair. And for all of
those who think we don’t need gay tourists, think again. Homophobia
doesn’t just put off those who may be gay, it puts off many people who
will associate homophobia with other illiberal attitudes.

Moreover, as the world faces a global economic decline, gay tourism
remains a lucrative option as the “pink dollar” is often less impacted
by recession, not least because gay men in particular usually have a
greater disposable income because they generally don’t have

The dolphinariums, too, could prove to be a PR disaster for “brand
Cayman”. While they are bound to be popular with cruise passengers,
these facilities are unlikely to offer any advantage to the islands’
stay-over tourism product. Moreover, aside from the mixed messages
they send out to the world at large about animal cruelty, if there is
any fatality or serious injuries to dolphins or humans, the fallout
could be extremely detrimental.

While there will always be those who suggest that what Cayman does is
Cayman’s business, and no foreigner, gay, environmentalist, politician
or police should be telling us what to do, as our economy is utterly
dependent on the outside world for both our tourism product and our
offshore sector, that type of thinking will not help our future

We can no longer afford to stand passively by and allow the country’s
name to remain synonymous with money laundering and primitive,
outdated behaviour. Cayman is a modern developed 21st Century
community that plays a significant role on the world economic stage.
Sadly not a lot people know that.

JC Calhoun:I am in agreement that Cayman needs to respond to
negative attacks in the Media.  For too long we have not
responded and the criticisms, well founded or not, have been left
unanswered.  Yes we need to be much more proactive, however, we
must be careful to present a logical well-researched response, or it
will do more damage than good.  

Further, we must realize that the complainants, for the most part,
have an axe to grind and they are only representing one viewpoint on
any given issue.  Although we need to respond, (and in cases
where wrong doing is obvious, take the appropriate action and
publicise that fact), just because there is a complaint doesn’t mean
we are automatically in the wrong.  Something that a liberal
columnist calls  “primitive and outdated behavior” for
example, may in the Cayman Islands be the accepted Moral/ Ethical
position of the majority. And it just may be that Cayman is a popular
destination because of, not in spite of, these positions.

So, by all means, do all the positive promotion and selling of our
Islands that you want, but DO NOT advise us to lower or change
our standards for the sake of luring a few more tourists!  We
have already sacrificed far too much to the God of Political

David Miller: I agree with JC. Why do we think that
we are wrong when people have been coming here for so long? We will
definitely get more people to travel here and buy more if we stay who
we are. Yes, there will be those that claim they will not come back
because of our stand, “respect”. As far as I’m concerned they can and
should bypass these islands. We don’t need to change Product Cayman –
decency, respect for our forefathers – it should be enhanced.
 Because, regardless of what a few say, and believe me a few do
say they don’t like Cayman for this or that, if they’ve got the money
they’re coming back. We should be getting more of the Bible south to
come to Cayman. That’s half of the USA population. But we need more
activities that will bring them here and, at the same time, “Cayman”
will be a better place for it. Don’t you agree? Come on Cayman!

Chris Randall: I’m sure it was completely unintended,
but Wendy’s article is the best argument I’ve heard for a while in
favour of restrictions on the media. If we must protect “Brand
Cayman”, then how better to do than by not publicising any of it’s
perceived shortcomings?  Far easier to simply restrict what may
be published than to persuade the whole population to change their
attitude to something or alter their behaviour.

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