NEW YORK -- The tourism minister of the Cayman Islands failed to
show up at a luncheon at which he was blasted for denying a gay
group permission to visit the country on a ship in February.
Thomas Jefferson, the Cayman's tourism minister, was slated to
address the Association of Travel Marketing Executives' April 15
meeting here but was called away on legislative matters, an ATME
John D'Allesandro, president of the International Gay and
Lesbian Travel Association, told the ATME group the decision to
deny the gay group access "was wrong, just as wrong as if the U.S.
were to deny entry to" people from the Cayman Islands. To drive
home his point, D'Allesandro quoted from the tourism minister's
letter to Norwegian Cruise Line denying the group's visit, but
substituted people from the Cayman Islands for a reference to the
tour group, saying:
"Mr. Jefferson... I would like to welcome you to the U.S.... but
I can't, because, and I quote, 'careful research and prior
experience has led us to conclude that we cannot count on people
from the Cayman Islands to uphold the standards of appropriate
behavior expected of visitors to the U.S., so we regrettably cannot
offer our hospitality.' "
He called for the Cayman Islands to "correct this situation" by
stating publicly that it welcomes all law-abiding visitors.
D'Allesandro said his organization so far has been unsuccessful
in "creating a compromise" with Cayman tourism officials since the
country denied the request for a Feb. 1 port call by NCL's Leeward,
which had been chartered by gay operator Atlantis Events.
In response to D'Allesandro's remarks, a Cayman Islands
Department of Tourism spokeswoman said the department had met with
the gay rights group in March. The spokeswoman said the island does
not have a policy banning gay group trips and cited a "bad
experience" with a large gay tour group several years ago as reason
for denying access to the NCL ship. She said conservative residents
objected to behavior by members of that group, which she described
as "bordering on [public] sexual conduct."