View from the Hammock: If I Were King

Recently the Ministry of Tourism asked for public input in their five-year National Tourism Plan. In other words, our “two-cents worth” on an industry that brings in around $400 million annually to the economy of the Cayman Islands. This is certainly a move in the right direction. One can only wonder whether those who work for the Ministry of Tourism or the Department of Tourism have ever mixed a rum punch, donned a scuba tank, guided an island tour, or eaten turtle stew.

Who am I to talk? One might say, “You are nothing but a shoeless mistral, one who sits on a bar stool and sings island ditties.”

Good point! However, I have sat on that barstool observing the goings-on at hotels, beach bars, nightclubs and travel industry events for the last 45 years. From my vantage point, I have observed happy, lost, intoxicated, and bewildered tourists. I believe (and not to boast) I am a tourist expert to the point I had considered obtaining a doctorate degree in tourism. From what I understand, such certificates are easily available online at reasonable prices, however it would cause too much confusion on our little island since we already have a Doctor Barefoot, that’s Joseph Barefoot MD, my doctor. So perhaps I could become King, King of the island.

Some pronouncements (If I were King, that is):

The Barefoot Man dressed as a king, sitting on a throne.1) All persons who work in customs, immigration, taxi services, airline ticket agents, receptionists, waiters, dive masters and bartenders will require two months of training at my International Smile School. Smiling has a number of benefits, including helping you present a more positive image to others, calming yourself, and actually making you and others feel happier. So why not share some smiling with our visitors – if you can’t smile or if you refuse to smile, you may get the proverbial pink slip or be placed in an office position where no one sees you except other grumps who don’t smile.

2) There will be no harassment of visitors at the cruise-line dock. Taxis and bus drivers will have to wait their turn for assigned passengers. Pushy, rude drivers who won’t take no for an answer will lose their taxi licenses (forever) and receive a heavy fine should they be caught bulldozing visitors again.

3) The dock, the airport, hotel beach bars, and tour boats would be expected to program local island-style music in their background sound system rather than imported tunes which our visitors hear back home. NOTE: In Hawaii where tourists spend about 14 billion dollars a year, Hawaiian music (and Hawaiian shirts) are almost mandatory features at most hotels, restaurants and beach bars.

4) No pesky annoying beach peddling. In other words, no badgering of tourists to have their hair braided, take island tours, rent umbrellas, or purchase ganja. No warnings – just jail time for malefactors.

I have more thoughts and policies on the subject; however, the meticulous editor of this fine magazine would never allow some of my more brash or brazen viewpoints to be published.

Now, last but not least, we need more Caymanians in the industry. Waiters, waitresses, bartenders, concierges, and dive masters would be a good start. Tourists want to meet the locals. The hospitality business is not only fun, but it pays well. I’ll quote my close friend Andy Martin, a “Brac-er” who bartended at Treasure Isle, Caribbean Club, and the Galleon Beach Hotel for 30 years:

“I smiled a lot, joked a lot, and met some wonderful people and made a good living. At the end of the day, my salary paid my bills, and my tips built my house.”

Remember, a smile is a universal language and it costs you nothing, yet it’s worth millions to our economy. So, dammit, smile!

When not fishing, writing cartoons or songs, you can hear George Nowak (The Barefoot Man) performing at The Wyndham Resort and the Wharf. Check out his website