A fine place to live

| 16/03/2009

It’s a golden rule of marketing that advertising works best if it’s tailored to the needs or desires of selected target-markets. Scattershotadvertising is hit or miss.

Our government’s total tourism budget (including Cayman Airways) is pretty much a state secret, insofar as its administrators don’t tell us exactly who their targets are. Mostly, what they seem to do is find out where our visitors come from already, and advertise there, and then claim that all the visitors came because of the advertising. Pretty cute.

I’ve never read or heard what age-groups are targeted. I guess the spring-break youngsters are on the list, judging by the rowdiness along Seven Mile Beach the other week. Otherwise, there don’t seem to be any specific targets at all. The adverts are scattershot.

It occurs to me that the spring-breakers’ grandparents might be an attractive target. Retirees’ vacations aren’t limited to just a couple of weeks a year; they can take months at a time, if they want. Some of them would probably be open to the idea of setting up home here, if it wasn’t much bother.

Not as tourists on tropical vacations for a week or two, but as long-term stayers. Not as Permanent Residents, either, because our politicians don’t want Permanent Residents. That’s clear from the ridiculous financial obstacles they make applicants jump over. Ah well, no problem. Retirees don’t want to spend 365 days of every year in their retirement homes anyway. They don’t all feel the need to become citizens, or even “Permanent Residents”.

I don’t mean that Cayman should compete with Latin America’s “gringo colonies”. Rather, we ought to be competing with Florida and the Carolinas, Arizona and California. We don’t need to make them buy houses or apartments if they don’t want to. Let them take advantage of our surplus dwelling units and rent them for a cut price, in this recession.

Most oldies don’t particularly want to be on the beach, and don’t particularly want gated communities if the security situation doesn’t warrant them. Most oldies don’t want to become tax refugees. Americans are usually resigned to paying Federal Income Tax, although they wouldn’t mind avoiding State Income Tax. As long as they don’t tell lies to the IRS they won’t get into trouble.

They wouldn’t mind being excluded from our workforce, which they would be. Some among them would be willing to help with expert advice, if asked, but they wouldn’t go into a sulk if they were ignored – as they would be. That would be our loss, not theirs.

Retirees don’t necessarily look for the things that are usually advertised as Cayman’s strengths. Traditionally, our advertisements praise our beaches, our friendliness, our sunshine, and our clear waters. But, let’s be honest about it: the only extraordinary thing among those is the waters. The others can be found anywhere in the region.

Our standard tourist attractions of hotels, bars, restaurants, night clubs (”niteclubs”, excuse me!) and local purpose-built facilities are pretty ordinary.

See, here’s the thing. Cayman doesn’t have all that much to offer discerning visitors, except for the waters; but it is a very pleasant place to live. Our First-World lifestyle is a strong selling point, and it’s a wonderour selling agents don’t realise that.

For a town of 50,000 people, we have excellent medical facilities. We have plenty of shops, full of stuff to buy; plenty of appliances and household items; repairmen to fix them and domestic servants to clean them. American TV reception is never 100% reliable, but it’s fine for an isolated little island. Electricity and water supplies are excellent, though the bills are sometimes dodgy.

Phone and internet connections aren’t bad. They’re expensive, but everything’s expensive. Our roads are generally good enough; our driving standards aren’t as bad as some people say.

It’s a peaceful place. Our crime waves, like our traffic jams, are small beer by metropolitan standards. Our lawmakers and law-enforcement agencies are about what one expects in a community of this size, taking into account that most of the top positions are denied to first-generation immigrants.

Even after fifty years’ residence, immigrants are still regarded as foreigners. Well, that’s common in remote English villages, and probably in small, isolated, North American towns too. Foreigners and bloodline Caymanians don’t mix much socially, but each group is happy with that situation. Our social divisions are based on ethnic origins and social classes, but not on race or colour.

Anyway, there are no good or bad peoples in the world, only good or bad individuals. (My wife and I visited seventy-odd countries and lived in five of them, before choosing Cayman as our final home thirty years ago. We have had to fight to stay here, but that’s another story.)

Some non-natives are scandalized by the pervasive crony- corruption, but that’s generally because they are used to living in large cities, where corruption is more easily hidden. Here, everybody lives in the same room, so to speak. Rich retirees don’t normally have to get down and dirty with the Immigration authorities. Lucky them. It’s best to stay well away from that nest of vipers.

In general, Cayman’s people are courteous, generous and good-natured. To foreign residents and visitors alike, it doesn’t matter whether one deals with native Caymanians or migrant workers, the encounters will be equally pleasant. Cayman’s welcome-mat is kept in good repair by all groups.

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