|Cayman Net News, Grand Cayman, Cayman
IslandsMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Apr. 1, 2010--At a time when the Cayman Islands tourism product and thus the economy in general is suffering from declining visitor numbers, Jamaica seems to be showing us how it should be done -- if anyone cares to pay attention.
According to a report this week from the Jamaica Information Service, with some three weeks before the 2010 winter tourist season ends on April 15, Jamaica is recording its highest ever arrival figures for the period.
In fact, this has been the best winter season Jamaica has ever had, Tourism Minister, Edmund Bartlett said
Mr Bartlett credited much of this success to the aggressive marketing strategies employed by his team.
He also pointed to the air service agreement with American Airlines, which guaranteed airlift to Jamaica.
Mr Bartlett also made the point that the world was changing and that the rest of the Caribbean must follow suit in order to stay on top.
Although some may not fully acknowledge this, Cayman is also in the Caribbean and, as we have remarked on several earlier occasions, we must also adapt in order to survive, let alone stay on top.
Regrettably, over the past four or five years at least, little or nothing has been done in recognition of this fact.
And, apparently, such adaptation need not cost a lot of money, relatively speaking, according to the Jamaican tourism minister.
Mr Bartlett said that, compared to several other Caribbean destinations, which have spent close to US$30 million to US$40 million to procure air services to their destinations, Jamaica has only spent a little over US$2 million "and the result is that we grew and the rest of the Caribbean is in deficit today."
"We have gotten growth out of the United States when that market contracted by 20 per cent last year -- Jamaica was the only country that grew and we grew by two per cent," he said.
No doubt, Jamaica's relative success in the tourism sector has been earned the hard way -- though much effort and proactive measures to counteract the many negative influences that have affected the industry in recent times.
Indeed, we have pointed out on several occasions over the last two or three years that our regional competitors have not been idle -- at a time when our then tourism powers that be were giving the word ineffectual a bad name.
Two years ago Jamaica announced that it planned to restructure its tourism industry -- in a proactive move to cement an already enviable performance in this sector.
The restructuring was designed to create "a modern, more efficient industry." One which is more inclusive, characterised by strategic alliances with the government, private sector and the communities, and which will provide a greater share for indigenous entrepreneurs, international investors and small medium enterprises.
In furtherance of this objective, essential airlift will be ensured and a master plan for sustainable tourism development will be reviewed. In addition, a sports tourism policy is to be formulated.
And all this is on top of the recent announcement of the planned licensing of casinos as "product enrichment" of qualifying resort properties in Jamaica.
No doubt, tourism stakeholders in the Cayman Islands could only look with envy at the willingness of the Jamaican government to take constructive steps towards the further development of the sector.
Even Cuba is embracing golf in order to boost tourism. Here, it remains doubtful whether we are able to claim a decent public golf course, let alone formulate a sports tourism policy.
The possibility of dual-destination travel with Cuba has also been raised by us on many occasions, with little or no attention being paid to this possibility by the then administration.
At least Premier McKeeva Bush has retrieved that particular ball after it had clearly been dropped by his predecessor and is now running with it. Whether we have left it too late, as needless to say our neighbours have been diligently pursuing the same opportunities while we have ignored them, remains to be seen.
In short, Jamaica has shown conclusively that much can be accomplished even in the face of adverse pressures with vision and hard work.
Are we ready, willing and able to bring the same qualities to our own tourism product?
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