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Over-development undermining tourism

| 01/06/2016 | 27 Comments
CNS Business

Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman

(CNS Business): The Cayman Islands tourism industry is at a crossroads and officials are worried that the quality of the experience for visitors is deteriorating due to the success of the sector, the number of visitors and the pace of development, especially around Seven Mile Beach. In a request for proposals for consultants to help create a five-year tourism plan, the clash between development, growing numbers and the environment is apparent. Seeking professional assistance to tackle the problem, tourism officials see that the rejuvenation of brand Cayman now needs to be sustainable over the long-term and hard decisions must be made.

In his budget address Monday, Premier Alden McLaughlin spoke at length about development and tourism projects being key to economic success for Cayman. He bragged about the number of planning applications and the ongoing as well as potential development activity that would bring jobs and investment. He also spoke about increasing air arrivals with the progress of the airport project, as well as government’s continued commitment to cruise berthing, which is seen by many as having the potential to seriously undermine Cayman’s tourism success story.

The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism clearly has concerns that too much development and too many visitors could be self-defeating for the islands and is seeking a way to plan for a sustainable future.

“There is a heavy concentration of tourist activities in the George Town and Seven Mile Beach areas which have changed dramatically in the past thirty years to the point where there are indications that the scale and nature of development is beginning to deter visitors,” department officials stated in the RFP. “The western coast and well known Seven Mile Beach corridor … also receives all the cruise visitors. In terms of infrastructure and community acceptance, there are times when capacity is exceeded. On certain peak days, the impact is deemed excessive by most stakeholders, including many cruise operators.”

The DoT noted the scope to grow tourism in off-peak periods but this may not be possible for operational or market reasons.

This is also a problem that many tourisms stakeholders opposed to the cruise berthing development have warned about. The creation of piers will not address seasonal trade, which means the massive increase in passenger numbers needed to cover the cost of the project could happen in just five months of the year, which would see Seven Mile Beach and George Town swamped with cruise visitors on certain days in the week during peak season but none at other times.

The Cayman Islands is not a mass tourism destination, but officials stated in the RFP that during the peak cruise ship season, hundreds of cruise ship passengers disembark, increasing congestion in major tourist zones and impacting the quality of life for residents.

“Whilst recognizing and welcoming the economic benefits the tourism industry brings, Caymanians clearly have concerns about the impacts of tourism and associated development on the culture and character of the Islands,” the DoT stated. “There is a growing impression within the community that certain types of commercial development have been allowed to proceed at a pace and in a direction which is not increasing the quality of life of the local population. The community would like to see economic development in balance with the needs of our natural and built environments, the Caymanian workforce and the social fabric.”

Seeking consultants that can help the DoT plan the next five years, officials point out that there may be limits of acceptable change and visitor management systems to help determine the level and nature of tourism activity here. How best to manage tourism to ensure the right balance is maintained between the economic, environmental and social impacts in future is one of the key questions they hope the consultants can help answer.

The RFP is seeking consultants who can review the current status of the Cayman Islands’ tourism industry in terms of tourist arrival trends, accommodation capacity, tourism-related infrastructure and tourism product offerings, to recommend the limits of acceptable change and develop a visitor management system that takes into consideration anticipated growth in tourism.

Looking for a new National Tourism Management Plan to cover the period 2017 – 2021, the RFP is seeking experts that can set the pace of change for Cayman tourism without undermining its success and balance development with the environment, which is already under enormous pressure but one of the islands main draws.

See full details of the RFP here

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Category: Tourism

Comments (27)

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  1. Robin says:

    I wrote many years ago on the Compass website that the island was expanding too quickly and purely chasing the dollar. I suggested that it would lose it’s charm and welcoming atmosphere. A frequent visitor in the 80’s and 90’s, I chose to spend my money in Grenada when the Ritz was built. Such a shame, I miss those days when Cayman was “local”.

  2. Anonymous says:

    And yet some people continue to push for a cruise port, which would only make the problem worse.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I am curious what the Planning Dept, Ministry and CPA have to say on this matter. Equally interested to know what the two former Planning Directors who are heading up the GT redevelopment project have to say on this matter. And most importantly what do Caymanians have to say about this.

    How does the public get access to the previous reports that were done on this topic?

    CNS are you able to get these reports and make it public?

    CNS: If anyone has copies, perhaps they could send it to us. Alternatively, you can FOI them if you have specific details. The name of the reports would help a lot. If we had them, we could make them public.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The problem is that this needs to be combined with a (proper) development plan. Its no good saying ‘we are overcrowded here’ if there’s nothing stopping another 7 story hotel/condo going in ‘there’. Planning needs to be national for national issues like national development. And it needs to be tri-partite: economic, social & environmental (which props up the other two).

    • Anonymous says:

      Your comment is on the mark in all respects , however this ship sailed 35 years ago
      To have put in place the measures you mention, would have involved incredible foresight by Cayman as a small country , as far back as the 70’s / early 80’s….or much earlier. Example might be that a development plan [ back then] for the beach could have included a water-side buffer/ nature & public park strip , board-walks, so all the properties aren’t 25 feet from the beach. Today , it would have made the beach more attractive for visitors and locals alike and…shown the country has a planning foresight. But now we are stuck with practically no beach access for people that are not staying on subject property, no parking of note and mediocre facilities , yet buildings that are ugly by most measures and no cohesion with Caymans Caribbean vision or character.

      In the 70’s & 80’s , you used to be able to walk down 7 mile beach and it was truly a great experience & a spectacle by any measure. People were friendly , the properties were simple & often quirky ( Galleon Beach Hotel anyone? )But it had a great feeling & vibe. It still is a spectacle & beautiful , but it could have been made into something a whole lot more. There really are few beaches as beautiful as 7 mile beach , the potential had no end.

      C.I.G did incredibly well with development ,with stamp duty collection on all the condos that just get re-cycled over and over , planning grants for large developments , construction.Tourism as a whole has done remarkably well in all circles , land based and cruise ship based. The realtors , with their little Cartel , have also done remarkably well as a result and Cayman has prospered with development.

      But overall , driving down 7 mile beach is now somewhat tiresome with the traffic , monolithic condo & now large hotel developments to cast shadows across the road and unless you are able to actually walk down & stand on the beach , its just plain ugly with little in the way of character. You may as well be in Boca, FL.

      • SKEPTICAL says:

        Your comment on the beach in the 70/80’s is so true, and “quirky” describes it perfectly. Small hotels and bars, the odd private home, and a few stretches with just bush at the top of the beach. I was lucky enough to live on the beach 1975-1981 and it was as close to perfection as you could want.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Just go back and dust off the Report by Coopers & Lybrand some years ago.

    If the recommendations in that Report had been followed we would not be having this problem now.

    But, like all Reports, it just sat on a shelf and gathered dust.

    Sad, real sad.

  6. Anonymous says:

    And what exactly have the people at DoT been doing for the last decade while this was going on – sitting in a darkened room with their eyes closed trying to ignore it? I know DoT come out with a lot complete BS but this beats everything. If they’d been doing their jobs and not dreaming up fancy schemes to get themselves free jollies abroad this warning would have been issued years ago. Anyone who’s visited these islands recently could have told them SMB had already been turned into a scruffy high-rise development. As others have posted here, it’s now too late to do anything about it.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately the die was cast 30 years ago. Cayman is an ultra-expensive destination offering a lousy experience. The 7-mile Beach corridor is an absolute dump, infested with fast food outlets, traffic, crime, tacky bars and, erm, a dump. The beach is ruined – far too many developments far too close to the waterline. If you look at historic photos of the beach it is plain as day the damage that has been done.
    Yet more is always allowed – more building, more hotels, more roads which are utterly unnecessary. Camana Bay is half empty but more, more, more is needed.
    Greed. Pure. Simple. Greed.
    Oh, and corruption.

  8. SKEPTICAL says:

    Too late – the horse is out of the stable, down the street, and out of sight around the corner. More and more the top end stay-over tourists will look for a new destination. There is no longer any pleasure in staying on Seven Mile Beach, when you find your hotel’s/condo’s section of beach overrun by far too many people – and especially cruise passengers. With imaginative planning in the early days, Cayman could have become a truly “boutique” destination like Barbuda/Mustique – but that ship sailed a long time ago.

    • Anonymous says:


      When have the Cayman Islands ever really got into the high-end market anyway? I’ve been diving these islands since 1992 and spent two years working on Grand Cayman but I’m damned if I’ve ever seen anything high-end here.

      I once stayed in the old Hyatt and I’ve visited R-C – that’s just overpriced accommodation and it doesn’t remotely equal high-end. Elsewhere you’re being expected to pay $200 a night for a what is little more than a cheap motel room. You can find better hotels along a completely unspoilt beach in Varadero, Cuba for a fraction of the cost.

      Making $millions from high-end tourism here is a myth perpetuated by DoT. I remember the days when Holiday Inn charged a sensible room rate but then tried to hit you for $100-a-head for the buffet meals in the evenings and something like $35 for breakfast. I have friends who came here in the late 1980s and stayed at a condo on SMB. Even then they thought everything was so expensive it wasn’t worth a return visit. The people those prices drove away are the ones these islands really need now.

  9. Anonymous says:

    The Dept of Tourism needs to send some people to the Eastern Districts. What about Barkers beach? What about Bodden Town? Anyone ask Twyla or George to see if they getting too many tourists ? What about Botanical Park? Pedro St James? Our New Crystal Caves have just open They could do 50 people per hour. Thats just a couple of Busses

    • Anonymous says:

      How many of the thousands of people on a Carnival Cruise ship want to go to any garden let alone Botanical Park?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Really? Too much tourists during 6 months of the year ? How about the summer ? Have we become so deluded to think that the amount of people are the problem? HOW about the price of food and drink?
    How about the Eastern Districts? We have close to 1000 new graduates what will they be doing ? Are we going into watch making, boat making ,textile making factories? Maybe we could start farming or silver thatch making industry? What are the daily numbers for 2 towns not on the weekend?
    Beaches need sand, everyday I hear people complain about Tiki Beach. Its too rocky ,why do we constantly hear from divers when it’s not a dive site, it’s a beach. Yes, I agree with Dart it needs to be removed from the shoreline. In fact everywhere in the Cayman Islands should be allowed to removed the rock from the shoreline. No-one is coming here to swim through the rocks it’s a accident waiting to happen.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Oh, come on! Hundreds, make that thousands, of us have been warning of this for YEARS! And Dart is the worst offender as they carry on putting themselves out of business! Very soon, if not already, there will be nothing left of the beauty that visitors once came here to see. WAKE UP government and developers!! Goose – golden egg -bye-bye!

    • Anonymous says:

      Dart smart, he already takin over little cayman with the intent to preserve the charm and quaintness as he realize he made a big mess here in grand cayman along with all the other developers and government that contributed to messing up grand cayman. No hope, money blinds the eyes, i agree, horse done get out the pen gone down the road turn the corner and out of sight, no recovery possible.

      • Anonymous says:

        In order to get back the return on their investment in Little Cayman what will have to happen? More tourists. As a % of the population and the size of the island you have to ask how long it would be before the same problem is created there – however much they may think that they are preserving the quaintness.

  12. POLITRICKS 101 says:

    Why not do all of this before trying to ramrod through “the most expensive capital works project in Cayman’s history” that will contribute to these obvious issues? This is how’s millions are wasted on unnecessary reports that they never intended to follow in making decisions.

    It’s like talking out both sides of the mouth or the “right hand not knowing what the left is doing” yet very big and expensive decisions are made based on this methodology.

  13. Anonymous says:

    When an approval for 3 (!!) Olympic size pools is given to a developer, who wants to build it simply because he can, not because this small island surrounded by water needs, what do you expect is going to happen to this island in the future? Same goes for artificial lakes – the potential cause of cyanobacteria invasion.

    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot
    With a pink hotel, a boutique
    And a swinging hot spot.

    Preservation MUST be a priority. Land conservation must be a priority!

  14. Anonymous says:

    ruining our financial services industry and our tourism product both at the same time. Lets guess who will be left to suffer when the damage is done!


  15. Anonymous says:

    Finally the piece that highlights overdevelopment and its consequences. Thank you CNS!!!!!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Here we go again… More talk… Typical. People stop flapping your gums! Until Caymanians can learn to unite on common issues like other Caribbean countries, the island will continue to be exploited by outsiders , as well as, locals who considered ‘elite.’ On another note, if the government seeking to commission a tourism consultant company , what’s t the point of having the department of tourism? Isn’t the organization full of tourism professionals, who specialize in Tourism Management, Tourism Development and Tourism Marketing.

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