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Tourism minister minimises room loss news

| 17/03/2016 | 1 Comment
CNS Business

Beach Suites, Grand Cayman

(CNS Business): Cayman’s tourism minister minimised the loss of 53 rooms in the heart of Seven Mile Beach, as he reacted to the closure of the Beach Suites, as well as the sale of that property and the related former Hyatt site to Dart Realty (Cayman). Although Dart has no immediate plans to do anything with the hotel, Moses Kirkconnell said Thursday that it was a temporary loss of room stock that would not have a long-term negative impact on tourism accommodation. 

Minister Kirkconnell said the loss, which was “unfortunate”, was happening in the low season and would be offset by the opening of Dart’s new hotel on the former Courtyard Marriott site at the end of the year. The Kimpton Sea Fire will have 266 guest rooms and 62 rental apartments.

“The main priority for government at this time is ensuring that the staff of Beach Suites is well supported and treated fairly during the transition,” he said, as he welcomed Dart’s announcement that staff impacted by the closure will have the opportunity to apply for work at the Kimpton or elsewhere in Dart group.

“Severance packages will also be offered to all employees and optional retirement packages will be available for persons of retirement age. Maintaining employment is certainly positive news, especially with respect to long-standing and experienced Caymanian staff,” the minister added.

The closure of the Beach Suites will leave a hole in the heart of the main tourist area but the minister was keen to offer government’s support for Dart Realty, which he said was expanding the Camana Bay footprint and adding two additional lanes to the Esterley Tibbetts Highway.

“Dart’s proven track record of real estate development promises several years of economic stimulus, including work for local companies and employment opportunities,” Kirkconnell said, despite the fact that many of the government’s own party stalwarts and supporters have often voiced significant concerns about the power of Cayman’s largest single landowner, investor and developer.

“Whatever they ultimately design for these properties, we look forward to the visitor experience being memorable and enjoyable, in keeping with the Cayman Islands established reputation as a world-class tourism destination,” Kirkconnell added.

Joey Hew, the PPM backbench member for George Town who acts as a councillor in the tourism ministry, was also upbeat about the tourism sector, regardless of the news, saying he was encouraged by the level of sales and development activity taking place within the tourism accommodations sector.

No new tourism development projects other than those by Dart and the airport have actually started, but Hew spoke about the “sheer number of projects” that he said reflected the strength of the economy.

“Over the past year in particular we have seen strong interest in tourism properties from both new entrants and existing developers within the Cayman Islands,” he said. “The sheer number of projects that are either in the planning stages for development, or have transferred ownership, speaks to the strength of our economy and reflects our record-breaking air arrivals over the past three years in particular. This translates into more Caymanian jobs now and in the future,” the councillor added, without offering any details of which projects he meant.

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Category: Stay-over tourism, Tourism

Comments (1)

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  1. WaYaSay says:

    Moses
    Treating the employees of the Beach Suites “fairly” is double speak for complying with the provisions of the labor law and the pensions law.
    Those persons working there will get 1 week for every year they have worked for Beach Suites and the required check sent to their pensions fund…………not a penny more.

    All of the Caymanians now working at the Beach Suites, as few in number as they are, can look forward to a long, long, period of unemployment, if they are ever employed in the tourism industry again.
    No one with good business since, as dart obviously has, is going to employ skilled Caymanians, with years of experience, at the salary scale that their skills and experience demand, especially since he can employ qualified foreign nationals on work permits, at entry level pay, anytime, and in any quantity he wants to.
    The present day Caymanian workers at this property can only look forward to becoming wards of the Department of Social Services within the next 5 years as their savings are depleted on the necessities of life!

    Remember the old Holiday Inn and the promises made by the Ritz Carlton and it’s developer that all of the Caymanians working there would be assured jobs?
    How many of these former tourism workers are employed at the Ritz Carlton today?……….NONE.
    How many experienced Caymanian managers from other properties are employed there?…………NONE.

    Anyone who thinks that Dart will NOT own each and every property on Seven Mile Beach, that collects a Tourism Tax, over the next ten years, is being quite naïve. Where else can he invest his money and collect $millions on top of his profits, due to his guarantee of 50% of the tourism tax?
    Anyone looking to Alden and his empty promise to “claw back” this sweetheart deal, is being even more naïve………..no court of law, nor any future Government, will force him to give up on this money machine deal!
    The condominium properties that have Tourism Accommodation Licenses will fare even worst. He only has to purchase 51% of the units there in order to take over full control of the Strata Corporation that owns them………… then he gets 50% of their accommodation tax as well.

    Dart has been given an economic advantage over his competition on Seven Mile Beach, that they will never be able to overcome. He can now set his rates at a level that actually loses money………… and make up for it with the free Accommodation Tax that he will not have to pay into Government.
    Others, who refuse to sell to him, who will have to try to match his prices, will simply go bankrupt and be bought for pennies on the dollar.

    Dart knows what the airlift capacity to the Cayman Islands is at any given time and will tailor his available hotel business to guarantee maximum occupancy to selective properties (read that to mean those with the highest profit margin and highest tourism tax) as he sees fit, and, close those he choses whenever he choses. To hell with Caymanian hotel workers…… he will simply have to cancel work permits and get a refund from Government.

    The old derelict Hyatt will languish as it is until such time as the stay-over tourism increases to afford full occupancy, or he will close some other place that he will buy and put Caymanians out of a job there as well, in order to fill it ……….or………… he will simply bulldoze it.
    It holds NO promise for jobs for Caymanians as long as he owns it, he will rehire people on work permits who are easier to get rid of when necessary!!!!!!!!!!

    When Dart owns most of the properties on Seven Mile Beach, expect him to come to the Caymanian people as a “knight in white armor” and offer to buy out Cayman Airways and take that huge drain of finances off our hands………….. just as Butch Stewart did with Air Jamaica.
    I would only caution Caymanians, that when Butch “gave” back Air Jamaica, all they have to show today is the tail of one airplane and $millions more debt.
    This will be the last piece of his puzzle that will allow him to direct available airlift to his properties only…………. increasing his take from the 50% accommodation tax deal!

    This financial windfall slay ride will be fun while it lasts, however, the cautionary tale of Antigua, who put all of their economic hopes into one billionaire investor named Stanford, should be studied by ALL Caymanians. It was fun while it lasted but today he sits in jail in Texas, the Antiguan economy is in shambles and all of his one glorious properties are shuttered!

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