April 23, 2021

OPINION: Cayman Islands port, hope or hindrance

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cruise shipsIMG_7037By Darveson Pinoy From Changed Journey

Build it and they will come. Build a concrete monstrosity of a cruise berthing facility that dwarfs George Town (and Cayman) and the volume of tourists that come will guarantee Cayman prospers and guarantee jobs for all Caymanians. Sounds like a pre-elections political speech. In theory it sounds good, but when we examine the facts, we may find our grand-children burdened with a mountain of debt, potentially ruined environment and a monument to political rhetoric.

The first fact is: Caymanian society is deeply religious. The locals are Christian, many Jamaican immigrants are Adventists and a vast majority from Asia are Catholic. They all have common beliefs such as gambling is sin and marriage is defined as one man plus one woman. The visitors will be John and his husband Bill, Mary and her wife Jill plus unmarried teen couples. Will residents abandon their values and make them feel welcome with a strong desire to return? Or will it be like when the gay cruisers visited? Protest and placards condemning them to hell? Will we build casinos for them? Will we declare a section of Seven Mile Beach as clothes optional? These choices will be necessary to keep them coming!

A valid question to ask is: What percentage of school graduates in the last 10 years expressed a desire for tourism as a career choice? Has this number been declining or is it on the rise? A quick look at our society may indicate that a very small percentage of school leavers have an interest in tourism. In the 60’s parents encouraged their kids to seek jobs abroad. In the 70’s and 80’s it was finance. In the 90’s the focus was on computer related careers, but change rocketed society into the mobile age and a young person must ask, “Do I want to slave cleaning toilets and risking my life diving OR design an app to sell for 99 cents, advertise it on the iTunes store to an audience of billions… and if only 1% buy I’ll be rich!”. Due to these choices we are forced to import workers from Jamaica and Asia.

How many under the age of 40 can share the culture of their grandparents? How many know how to cook fish rundown or make a cassava heavy cake or plat thatch basket? The truth is that society continues to blend as it was meant to. Humans were never meant to be one culture, we were meant to be diverse. I dare state that less than 10% under the age of 20 can raise their hand and declare, “My grandma and grandpa born in Cayman!” Instead their favorite non fast-food is ackee and salt fish, liver and onions, adobo, roast pork or tandoori chicken. As stated before this how it is meant to be. We are to evolve and diversify. A Caymanian isn’t a person who can trace his/her roots back to Columbus. A Caymanian is an individual who has made a conscious choice to make the Cayman Islands his/her home and to do all that will contribute to a better Caymanian society, and ultimately, a better citizen of planet Earth.

In the final analysis, it seems Cayman has nothing uniquely Caymanian to offer the tourist. Europeans have castles and cathedrals. Jamaica has Dunn’s River Falls, Lover’s Leap and the Blue Mountains. There are volcanoes, gorgeous beaches and other natural attractions in Southeast Asia. Recently concern has been raised about Cuba relaxing its communist ideals. I say don’t worry. There is a mass migration of unskilled workers from all these countries to Cayman, the US, Canada and elsewhere. Maybe they see a “writing on the wall”?

So, if we build it, will we have the revenue to pay the monstrous debt it will incur? Will tourism be a sustainable industry for the next 50 years? In the last decade the phrase “Virtual Reality” has been tossed around. Recently there was hype about Google glass… As technology continues to evolve it will be possible to “purchase a VR device at Best Buy, stop at Walmart spend 30$ for two case of beer and some snacks, and in the safety, comfort and familiarity of one’s own home, visit any country on earth”. It will also be possible to visit the country as it was in the past and imagine the future.

Sir Richard Branson is promoting space tourism as a viable industry and within 5 – 10 years trips to the moon will be common. Elton Musk is making plans for colonies on Mars within 10 – 20 years. In 25 to 50 years there will be resorts on the moon and within 100 years also on Mars.

I believe “the writing is on the wall” and with emerging technologies and alternatives sources for entertainment, tourism as it is defined today, will see a sharp decline worldwide within 50 years. Therefore, if you build it, the end result will be an unpaid monument to a dying industry.

My advice is “Leave Cayman as the islands time forgot”. The majority are looking for a simpler experience. The cruise ship has become a “floating skyscraper” and the cruise dock a concrete jungle monstrosity. The tourist want to escape these things to a place unspoiled by human greed. Taking a boat from ship to shore invigorates the mind leaving one feeling like the explorers of the past. It becomes an adventure, not just an excuse to buy fake local souvenirs made in China.


EDITOR: This was sent to me by Mr Pinoy asking me to give some thought to his words and if necessary adding or subtracting something to it. To add or subtract to this thought provoking blog would in my humble opinion not be the best thing to do. It stands on its own.
I wish to point out that the above article does not confirm the opinions of iNews Cayman or my Editorial viewpoint in anyway. Neither does this statement confirm an opposite opinion.

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