| 25/01/2010

Ultimately, the Cayman Islands Government (any Government at the given time) needs to decide if we will continue to market these islands only to the wealthy and not to the ‘bread & butter’ tourists – as stated by Jim Bodden in the 1970’s.

This policy actually pre-dates Big Jim to our first Exco Minister for Tourism, Warren Conolly who was quoted in the NY Times around ’69-70 as saying that "Cayman is not for everyone", meaning that we were intentionally targeting the wealthy. And that was good, as over the years the wealthy tourists have appreciated that so they didn’t rub shoulders with ‘Joe Average and Family from mid-America’ or rowdyspring-breakers. It has served us well but times change and we need to decide if we are ready to change with the times or keep the same 40 year-old formula.

Look at some of the intentional and unintentional results or by-broducts of this long-standing policy:

* A consistently dubious marketing policy (does anyone see the TV network ads that our generous tourism budgets pay for year after year? (stay up ’til 3am and surf some obscure channels and you might see a Cayman Islands ad every few months).

* Over-inflated and non-competitive air fares;

* Over-inflated local pricing, hotels, restaurants, liquor stores, etc. These claim to be priced as they are because of ever increasing Government fees but they never absorb any such increases (as minute as some may be) because they know they are catering to a wealthy bracket of tourist and feel they can justify ‘socking-it’ to the visitor. Now, many a wealthy tourist are good with that (if you choose the Cayman Islands you have no choice) but the wealthy didn’t get that way by being foolish with their money so even them like a deal and don’t appreciate being gouged. I recall witnessing a family checking out of the Villas of a currently non-existent resort. When they checked their bill, their accommodation costs were $14,000 for the week and they had no problem with that. But when they checked their incidentals, they had been charged $84 for a dozen bagels, $20 for a gallon of milk, $20 for a dozen eggs when the resort stocked their villa with groceries. They were livid, and rightfully so.

* Actively discouraged all-inclusive resorts, totaly converse to the policies of most of our competitors.

Look at the example of Boatswain’s Beach: an attractive, innovative attraction which was well needed but senior powers at the time (most likely higher than management) saw fit to open the attraction charging a US$75 entry fee! That was higher than an Orlando theme park at the time. They failed to realize that the main market they were targeting was the same tourist who had paid $55-60 (then) for an all-day Disney or Universal experience; most of the Boatswain’s Beach market had only a few hours on land. With every other new service, one usually starts with bargain prices to attract your market and gradually work pricing upwards. Why in the world did BB do the opposite? Partly becasue of the ‘rich tourist mentality’ and partly because the ones who made the decision thought they were the marketing and financial experts and thought this approach would pay off the loans as quickly as possible. Needless to say they were totally wrong – the results today are evident.

We are only competitive in our rental car rates (taxi rates are not bad if you get an honest driver who doesn’t rip you off because of the lack of meters – but that’s another story).

Anyway, difference is what sells; we were sold as being different, and we were. But the world has changed and so has Cayman but the real question is now: do we continue with our old policy which was appropriate to the times or do we change to match the rest of the world and in particular, the Caribbean? Or do we retain our exclusivity but change the direction thereof? Deep water channels in the North Sound, floating bars in Nature Interaction Zones, etc., etc., – hmmm, we might be on to something!

Without changes to be in step with the times, we will be the ‘last resort’ – pun firmly intended – when visitors make their choice.


This Viewpoint was originally posted as an anonymous comment in response to CG to take on tourism

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  1. Lachlan MacTavish says:

    Stayover tourism can be turned around in 3 years……

    I can do it….1) give me/auditor control of the DOT budget …let us re structure the DOT   2) let me form an organization of private and public sectors…have the private sector infuse funding with their positive imput and say… 3)  duty exemptions for tourism businesses…for 3 years…. to allow them to price competively for the region. 4) CAL…200.00 return from Miami including taxes etc……

    Stay over can be turned around big time… one seems to want to focus on stay over……

  2. Anonymous says:


    Also, if the goal is to appeal to the super-rich, don’t allow every cheap cruise line to come in and dock with their less-travel savvy passengers.  Let ’em pass.  The island was so much better when the typical person had never heard of it.
    • anonymous says:

      Couldn’t agree more.  Even the modestly affluent must now avoid GT area during weekdays. 

      Unfortunately the cruise landing fees are a central revenue line for the CI Gov’t (unaudited).  It’s all about cattle count in George Town – it matters very little where they go or what they do once they land, so long as they pay and leave after a few hours! 

      Ultimately it’s a universally disappointment for locals, stayover guests and adventurous cruise ship passengers.  Downtown GT has lost most of its unique charm as its DOT characture seeks to emulate other Caribbean seaports.

  3. Anonymous says:


    In short, Cayman needs to quit with the bars and gimmicky nonsense.  Honour and celebrate its culture which isn’t obvious to the naked eye.  A serious lesson in HOSPITALTY and SERVICE is in need as well to at least make an effort of an excuse for $600/night room rates.  It is currently a last resort, if an option at all, to many due to the cost being inexcusable.  It’s also the reason for it not being a place to typically draw back tourists.  People can go to many other islands, stay at a true RESORT all-inclusive, at a third of the cost – including air.  The environment found on SMB can be found in Florida for 1/10 the cost.  Everything that was unique has/is being developed away.  Having a snobbish approach and attitude toward anyone is going to be a turn off as well.


  4. Chet O. Ebanks says:

    I will add my two cents to this. I moved from Cayman Brac to Grand Cayman in July 1988. What a peaceful and nice island this was back then. It is a pitty that the powers that be past and present over the years have allowed this island to grow just for the sake of that green back. With all those huge condo buildings whatever happened to GOOd old Caymanian common sense. More in our case is not always better. We should have kept our hotels and condo buildings and office buildings to a minimum of 3 floors, and always in a Caymanian style then we would have nice buildings to look at and we ALL could see the sea. Sad that greed has taken over. With all these changes how can anyone not expect crime and bad deads not to grow and for our stayover tourist numbers not to decline year after year.

    I still smile when I go back home to Cayman Brac my HOME where I grew up. It’s still quiet and peacefull like the island I moved to in 1988. We don’t need more buildings what we need is more common sense to realize that we have PARADISE here and all that has been allowed is to allow development to continue without being policed or checked. A concerned Caymanian.   

  5. Anonymous says:

    I attended a wedding in Jamaica in June and was surprised at the large number of tourists there. They were mainly British and had travelled with Virgin Airlines. Apparently Virgin have a large following, maybe we should see if we can attract Richard Bransons airline here.

    When we were out for lunch / dinner we noticed how busy the restaurants were with tourists, so they were obviously not staying in all inclusive resorts.

    They already fly to Jamaica and Cuba, maybe they could be encouraged to fly on to Cayman.


    Just a thought.

  6. Afraid to Strap on a Pair Also says:

    To oldtimer and Anonymous 01/26 7:50:   Please tell me about budgets to assist accommodations for tourists.  As I recall the Department of Tourism asked us to reduce our rates for ‘Summer Splash’ last year which turned out to be ‘Summer Spritz.’  I don’t recall ever getting anything  from the Department of Tourism or any other part of the Cayman government until I placed money into a CI account.  What is it that you believe is being done to assist owners of accommodations?  We all do our own marketing.  I would market the heck out of a dive vacation but the ‘high-spend sophisticated tourist’ and ‘diver’ is an oxymoran.  And the reefs are deteriorating at an alarming rate here.  It’s a tough sell when it’s more expensive and less thrilling to dive here than in other parts of the world such as Indonesia, Thailand, Mozambique, the Maldives, etc.  Sure, we can shoot ourselves in the foot by building floating bars that serve tapas and dredging the North Sound without investigating the environmental implications.  Tourism here is shot.  There’s no incentive to sustain a tourist accommodation;  there’s no incentive for tourists to come.

  7. Lachlan MacTavish says:

    I spent the majority of my life in Cayman in the stay over tourism industry. It is a shame that our CIG leaders have allowed stay over tourism to launguish away. Fix it befores it dies completely. Commissions and DOT is not the answer…..hands on in the trenches proactive leadership now. 

  8. Anonymous says:

    quote    "I live and work here and am a high-spend sophisticated tourist.

    ………I tell my friends not to waste their money coming here unless they love diving"  unquote

    Why are you living in a place where you don’t want anyone else to come to..very, very selfish of you.  Are you only here because as you say you work here .. is the money so good that you won’t leave??  If  I  were in your place I would try to recommend the island to other people for the good of the island  and those more unfortunate than you. Maybe they can get a job working to live the life of a ‘sophisticate tourist’. 

    Thank GOD for your blessings – some of us islanders have worked very, very hard to make the island a good place to live and we can’t live a ‘sophisticated’ life but we are thankful that we have such a beautiful place to live. We can see the stars and moon every night and early mornings when they are not hidden by the beautiful clouds, we can see the beautiful sun most days and we can see a lot of beauty as we look around us and I’m not even a diver!!

    • Anonymous says:

      I am content living here at the moment, despite the obvious drawbacks of life in Cayman, but I would not chose to come on vacation here.  It just is not a top end holiday destination (unless you are fly-over state middle management). 

      The suggestion that I should recommend my friends to spend their valuable vacation time visting a second or third rate destination for the good of social redistribution is unrealistic. 

      "We can see the stars and moon every night and early mornings when they are not hidden by the beautiful clouds, we can see the beautiful sun most days and we can see a lot of beauty as we look around us"  As can all of the region and large tracts of the planet.  The seeing the beauty does take much more creativity and commitment here than in many other tourist destinations.- unless you consider a view of overwieght cruise ship day trippers on a narrow, overdeveloped beach beautiful.

      • Anonymous says:

        To: Wed. 01/27/2010 – 07:54.

        Praise GOD anyway!  Grateful people are always giving ‘thanks’ 🙂 while the ungrateful are always ‘complaining’.   🙁

  9. Anonymous3 says:

    You can alway rent one of those guesthouses that the foreigners are renting out illegally.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I live and work here and am a high-spend sophisticated tourist.

    Cayman needs to build attractions because it has very little to offer.  It has no real natural beauty compared to regional competitors, one OK but overdeveloped beach, no cultural or historical interest or significance, no activities other than diving (it is getting worse too – the butterfly farm has gone and we won’t even have a single 18 hole golf course soon), a soulless cheesy capital filled with tacky shops  . . . .

    I tell my friends not to waste their money coming here unless they love diving.

    • Anonymous says:

       Spot on……..

    • CaymanMangos says:

      If what you are saying is true – namely that Cayman has no natural beauty and no cultural or historical interest – then there doesn’t seem to be much point in ‘building new attractions’ because they wouldn’t be based on anything Caymanian (which doesn’t exist, presumably).  In that case, any new attraction would come off looking even more artificial and cheesy than the shops downtown.  I am not sure having lots of attractions is a must (other than a golf course, perhaps), because Cayman can never compete on that level.  When my friends ask me about coming here, I tell them that it is not as beautiful or diversified as Cuba or Jamaica, but it is (relatively) safe and small, so a perfect place to get away from it all.  Cayman has little to offer perhaps, but why is that automatically a bad thing?  All I hear is how beautiful this island was before it started to offer more … that being said, the bigger problem for tourism in my opinion is the blatant overdevelopment that is so evident everywhere you look.  That will hurt tourism more than lack of attractions, as it is hard to get that feeling of relaxation when you can’t see the beach for all the buildings…..

      • Anonymous4 says:

        Cayman Islands is three islands…Cayman Brac, Little Cayman, and Grand Cayman.  I strongly recommend checking out these two smaller islands.  It’s relaxing, not crowded,  and you can see the beach.

    • Anonymous says:


      How long have you lived here? 
      I think what you’re unaware of is that the development of the attractions, commercialization, lax immigration, etc has been what’s erased the people, beauty and culture.  Comparison to Jamaica is going in the direction of apples and oranges.  The two things that Cayman still had going for it now appear to be gone as well; safety and spotlessness.  We were known for being the safest and cleanest enjoying the highest quality of life in the Caribbean.
      • Anonymous says:

        And I thought it was the greed of local landowners selling up for a quick buck.

  11. oldtimer says:

    One of the reasons why tourism is down is blatently obvious.We are running out of hotels or has no one noticed. Left in Grand Cayman are the Ritz, which surely can fend for itself, the Mariott, Westin, remnants of the Hyatt, Sunshine suites, Comfort Suites and Sunset where certainly Adrian needs no help.. The other accommodation is provided by the Morriott Suites and varios condos where ownership vests largely in foreigners.

    The budget for assisting these hotels is rediculous. They need market themselves.