Column: Reflecting On Visit To Cayman Islands

June 29, 2018 | 17 Comments

[Opinion column written by MP Chris Famous]

Located approximately 450 miles south or 90 minutes flying time from Miami are the three beautiful sister islands of; Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac.

Collectively known as The Cayman Islands.

Recently Grand Cayman served as the host island for the 43rd Annual Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s [CPA] Caribbean, Americas and Atlantic [CAA] region conference. The Conference ran from June 16th until June 23rd ,2018.

A total of nearly 100 delegates, from almost the entire English-Speaking Caribbean region, flew into Grand Cayman.

CPA Delegates Bermuda June 27 2018

From the minute we stepped off the plane at the Owen Roberts International Airport we were greeted with what can only be described as open arms, by some of the friendliest people on this earth.

“Welcome to our home and now your home, Grand Cayman,” stated our Caymanian bus driver Ms. Lorna Ebanks. We later met the rest of her 3 Bus transport team consisting of; Ms. Elizabeth Bush and Ms. Josie Vegiz.

Over the following week we had a few facts shared with us about the Cayman Islands.

Today, I would like, as an introduction, to share a few of these facts with you.

Historic dates, as provided in CPA Handbook

  • 1503 Christopher Columbus claims to have first sighted these islands and named them Las Tortugas.
  • 1607 England, under the treaty of Madrid, takes over Cayman Islands and Jamaica.
  • 1802-The first census shows a total of 909 inhabitants, of which 545 were enslaved Africans.
  • 1863-English Parliament makes Cayman Islands a dependency of Jamaica.
  • 1958- Cayman Islands granted its own Coat of Arms.
  • 1962- Cayman Islands becomes Crown Colony no longer associated with Jamaica.
  • 1972-Cayman Islands gains its own currency.
  • 1972- New Parliament building opens.
  • 2004-Hurricane Ivan devastates Cayman Islands.
  • 2015-Cayman Islands moves to 19 single seat constituencies.
  • 2017-First election under single seat constituencies.
  • 2018-Cayman Islands celebrates 60th anniversary of Coat of Arms.

With a total combined size of 102 square miles, Cayman Islands is home to just over 63,000 persons who work in a wide range of industries such as, but not limited to; Financial Services, Hospitality and other service industries.

Currency

Having an unequalled exchange rate of $1 Cayman Dollar [KYD]: $1.25 US Dollars, Caymanians can rightly say that they have the strongest currency in the Caribbean and perhaps one of the strongest currencies in the world.

I have always been intrigued as to how their dollar was so strong and made some inquires whilst there. Apparently, in 1974 there was a Cayman Islands Currency Order that set the exchange rate of $1 KYD: $ 1.20 US.

Order Sheet Bermuda June 27 2018

Immigration

The present government takes great pride in stating that CI is a cosmopolitan society with over 120 different nationalities working in their islands, in almost every industry. This is indeed true as you can bump into 20 persons from 20 different countries all within 20 different minutes.

On the surface this could be hailed as a Caribbean success story of multi-culturalism.

The flip side would be getting to speak with native Caymanians who, rightly or wrongly, express sentiments of feeling like a minority in their own country.

Statistics show that the population break-down clearly indicate that approx. half of the population is non-Caymanian. With ambitious plans to raise their population to a level of at least 100,000 persons, it is clear that the present CI government has an extremely liberal immigration policy.

In subsequent pieces, we will look at other aspects of Cayman Islands such as; culture, infrastructure and yes politics.

Tourism

Over the last few years CI has enjoyed an ever-growing number of visitors by both sea and air travel. In fact, in 2017 over 400,000 visitors arrived via air and another 1.7 million persons arrived via cruise ship, for a combined total of 2.1 million tourists.

The most popular area for those who arrive by air would be the “Swanky” 7 Mile Beach Strip that flows from the edge of the capital George Town all the way northward to the edge of the West Bay region.

Major international hotel chains such as; Marriott, Comfort Suites and Ritz Carlton dominate along the entire 7 miles stretch.

Whilst all hotel staff were extremely friendly and helpful, if there was one regret, it would be that there are very few Caymanians working in the hotel/hospitality industry.

7 mile beach Bermuda June 28 2018

In subsequent pieces we will look at other aspects of Cayman Islands such as; culture, economy infrastructure and yes of course, politics.

Cayman Kind

Irrespective of their country of origin, every person we met was extremely friendly and helpful. At all times, going out of their way to ensure that we were well taken care of and all needs met. Any similar jurisdiction such as, Bermuda and BVI that is looking to succeed in tourism will do well to ensure this level of uber-friendliness.

There is a slogan/mantra that pretty much sums up what we felt and why their tourism numbers continue to grow.

That would be to “Stay Cayman-Kind.”

- Chris Famous, a PLP MP, can be contacted via email at Carib_pro@yahoo.com, Twitter at @ryderz777 or via Whatsapp on 599-0901

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Comments (17)

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  1. facts of the rock says:

    “Welcome to our home and now your home……”

    NO Bermuda Bus Driver would ever say that!

  2. Funny enough Chris,

    When i first visited Jamaica in 1972 the JA$ was $1.20 or if you did the simple math of the time 10 shillings. Seeing as Cayman Islands elected or decided not to join Jamaica in Independence their currency has remained stable, while Jamaica’s went on a horrific decline.

    But thanks for the clarifications as set out in your oped

  3. Sickofantz says:

    Another aspect of Cayman’s friendly welcome and diverse integrated shang gri la. Is that they have all round good weather. Which we don’t. Jamahl Simmons keeps writing about the fact he is targeting visitors who don’t come for the sun and sand! But he is yet to say why these visitors would come to holiday here if not for the sun and sand.

  4. Vigilante says:

    Quite a timely piece by Mr Famous, with only a few inaccuracies and omissions, contrary to his usual method of monologue. He states there are not many Caymanians in the hotel business, but I know quite a few so employed, and happily so. He also neglected to add to his historical dates that slavery was abolished in 1834, as in the rest of the English Caribbean, and that in the intervening 184 years race relations have developed such that today there is little of the racism that ravages Bermuda’s political landscape. The Cayman politicians have simply not invoked it, and Mr Famous would indeed be famous to consider their approach. Perhaps it will come up in his “subsequent pieces”.

    As a white Bermudian who has lived and worked in Cayman at various times over the past 20 years, I find Cayman much more amenable than Bermuda to people like me and likewise to people of all ethnicities. Issues related to skin colour, “colonial rule” and the like are simply not accorded the time and energy that they are given in Bermuda, and strangely enough I find Cayman is a much happier place to live and visit. In my humble opinion, this is the primary reason Cayman’s tourism business is so successful.

    Several friends of mine in Cayman were quite surprised at the rather vitriolic position statements of Mr Famous and expressed concern that his attitude might infect Cayman. Having Mr Famous act as Bermuda’s spokesperson gave many Caymanians a new perspective, which they do not yet seem minded to adopt, fortunately for Cayman. More will be revealed in Mr Famous’s upcoming pieces, I am sure…

    • moira thompson says:

      vigilante- you say tomato I say tomaaattoe! the friendliness there has cost the caymanians their own livelihood and they are so vulnerable they don’t even get it yet! For a people to be satisfied with mediocracy in their numbers and desperation for others to lead them in their own country well, lets just say thanks Mr Famous for the enlightment and whilst others have their own opinion, the only reason they have people like vigilante being greeted there coz the money is good and the people are so easy to convince because they are not aware of the treasures of their land that are now being utitilized by others, looks like modern day Columbus, ” look at these civilized people! they have no idea of their wealth, let us deal wisely with them!”. Once again tks Mr Famous for your commentary.

      • Vigilante says:

        Actually, friendliness has not cost the Caymanians their livelihood..on the contrary, it has enhanced their opportunities. Unemployment is half that of Bermuda. Hotels get built and locals get jobs (despite what Mr Famous says). Cayman’s leaders are all Caymanian and none of them spend time mudslinging. The Cayman government is actively rooting out corruption and fraud among it departments, including The Port Authority and Immigration. Sad to say for someone who grew up with the Strollers, but now it really looks like “Cayman is another world”…

    • Chris Famous says:

      Can you explain to us exactly why at the Marriott and most other establishments along the 7 mile beach area we hardly saw any Caymanians?

      We counted 2 Caymanians at the Marriott.

      • Toodle-oo says:

        And let me guess , you can also tell who’s Bermudian and not on these comment boards ?

      • Question says:

        The Caymanian unemployment rate is 4.1%.

        I’d rathet look at facts than at your biased anecdote.

        Were you living it up at taxpayer expense?

      • Black Soil says:

        Were you checking everyone’s passports or using your usual prejudicial assessment based on sight and overall ignorance??

  5. Question says:

    Chris Famous speaking out against diversity and pretending to be an expert in the forces behind currency exchange rates.
    Forgive me if I puke.

  6. Double S says:

    Not everyone shares your narrow minded nationalist/nativist ideology Mr. Famous.

    Cayman is recording surpluses, paying down their debt, giving their civil servants pay rises and even will pay for each Caymanian to attend University if they so desire. Hotels are being built, companies continue to domicile there resulting in a growing economy and a very low unemployment rate.

    Bermuda, and Mr. Famous and his PLP colleagues, could learn a thing or two from Cayman at this point in time.

    • Rich says:

      indeed they could, starting with why, when we have a similar population, do we need twice as many MPs?

      • Double S says:

        Barbados’ population is 5 times that of Bermuda and they have 6 less MPs.

  7. Rocky5 says:

    Sounds like Cayman treats their visitors much better that Bermudians do!

  8. moira thompson says:

    if caymanians are outnumbered I would ask the question, where have all of them disappeared if they are being slowly meticulously replaced, what do the caymanians themselves do? where are the majority of them? have they gone away to work elsewhere when their dollar is stronger than anyone else? foreigners have found a way to wiggle into someone elses territory in the guise of helping with a debt that will remain outstanding!i would like to hear from original caymanians about their disappearance from the workplace in their country and see whether or not they like it!

  9. Um Um Like says:

    Somebody buy this man a one way ticket to Cayman!

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