|By Kevin Shereves, Cayman Net News, Grand
Cayman, Cayman IslandsMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Sep. 15, 2009--Despite the recent surge in crime, tourism officials say that the Cayman Islands remains among the safest jurisdictions in the Caribbean, and that tourists should feel safe and secure with Cayman as a destination for tourism.
The recent murder of 35-year-old Carlo Webster at the Next Level nightclub sent the Islands into shock, as the victim was shot to death in front of some 100 club patrons. The murder received international media coverage as far afield as Taiwan. Horrific images of the victim are also currently being circulated via email, and no doubt have been viewed internationally.
Police statistics show that, since January 2009, six murders have been reported in Grand Cayman, four of which were shooting deaths. Last year there were two shooting deaths recorded, and only one in 2007.
Public Relations Officer of the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism (CIDOT), Joanne Gammage, is optimistic that the recent levels of violence will not adversely affect Cayman as a vacation destination.
"The Cayman Islands has long been, and continues to be, one of the safest destinations in the Caribbean and beyond. Tourists visit our shores for our beautiful beaches, warm and welcoming people and our wealth of attractions, diving, restaurants and wide variety of accommodations -- and they will continue to do so," she said.
Promoting Cayman as a premier tourist destination, Ms Gammage said, "We have a unique and diverse tourism product and we are still considered as one of the safest destinations among our Caribbean neighbours."
She added, "The CIDOT is working closely with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service to ensure that all guests are provided with a safe and secure visit. Awareness programmes are already in place and we are confident in the work of the RCIPS to bring about an even greater degree of safety for visitors and locals alike."
Ms Gammage said that there are numerous initiatives underway that will help to boost the Islands' tourism.
"Efforts are underway to boost tourism, including successful programmes like Skate Cayman and the development of unique island offerings such as Cayman Cookout and Cayman Jazz Fest, which this year will feature the Grammy award-winning Alicia Keys. Our tourism product continues to evolve in a very positive way and with attractive offerings from our private sector partners."
Executive Director at Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA), Trina Christian has indicated that, despite the recent shooting in the heart of the tourism district, tourists are feeling safe and secure. "Properties have reported that tourists are feeling rather safe and secure here in Grand Cayman," she said.
Ms Christian said that crime certainly poses a threat for the image of the destination.
"Crime does make it difficult for the tourist industry because it is damaging to the perception that people have on our destination, but compared to other Caribbean destinations Cayman is still one of the safest destinations in the Caribbean," she said.
Ms Christian said that CITA has recently met with law enforcement officials to offer help wherever needed.
"We are obviously not going to sit back and wait. We are taking preventative measures and we are looking to reach out to the government and the RCIPS to open the lines of communication to see if we can work closely together," she said.
RCIPS Public Relations Officer, Deborah Denis said the police are strengthening their efforts to clamp down on crime and ensure safety on the Islands for locals and visitors alike.
"Police are conducting a series of road blocks to target known criminals, as they too use the road networks and we are putting pressure on the criminals and on the hot spots," she said.
Ms Denis pointed out that guns and drugs are coming into the Cayman Islands on boats from Central America and the Caribbean, and that the RCIPS is working closely with customs and immigration to see what can be done together to tackle crime.
"The RCIPS has also acquired new boats for the marine unit and we are looking at targeting guns before they get here," the police spokesperson said.
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Copyright (c) 2009, Cayman Net News, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
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