Boatswain’s Beach

| 26/01/2010

It seems pretty simple. The Turtle Farm was, and is, an exclusive and unique thing with no equal worldwide. It was interesting, relevant and as important internationally as both a scientific and environmental facility as it was a tourist attraction. It was ahead of its time, in that environmental and/or educational tourism wasn’t really a big thing until relatively recently.

So, how did Boatswain’s Beach end up being what it is? As a world class, or even regional leading tourism experience, it simply doesn’t cut it. It is not a great idea to have designed a pool with minimal shade and landscaping and a snorkeling pool that is filled with green algae and a little spooky at best. It’s not my opinion, ask around. Caymanians, expats AND tourists all say so in large numbers. Ask the cruise tourism people if they wanted or needed a pool for people to visit in the country that has Seven Mile Beach or a snorkeling pool on the top island for real snorkeling, marine interaction and beach tourism in the Caribbean (and at prices that were entirely unrealistic). They didn’t and they don’t and, unfortunately, any capital project of that size needs the mass numbers of cruise visitors crawling over themselves in giant numbers to visit the place in order to really make it work.

Business is a mean game and the customer hits you or hugs you with their wallet. The financial performance of Boatswains tells you everything you need to know. Quite simply, it’slosing money, tons of it. If this business had to answer to shareholders it would have closed long ago. Some would say that it does have to answer to shareholders in a way, because the money required to keep it open comes at the expense of other things that could be done for people that live here, much less talking about the fact that it should be a revenue GENERATOR for the country, not an EXPENSE, or, gasp, a true not for profit….

Quite simply, this country does not need an ersatz beach and marine experience and the tourists have said so.

Think for a moment, ask yourself, what if all the money had initially been spent on creating a world class scientific research and tourism facility dedicated to the preservation of the Green Sea Turtle and the greater marine world that is 100% linked with almost all the Cayman Islands stand for in tourism?

What if all the money needed to really give these scientists the opportunity to have a cutting edge facility that could make a true difference internationally was balanced with creating an interactive tourism experience that educated people about the history of the turtle as it pertains to the Cayman Islands and the world? Many people say that it is hard for them to understand the harvesting of turtles for local consumption, so perhaps that could be much better presented and explained as well.

What if this facility was also dedicated to our other national treasure, the stingray? I’ll leave that one out there to let it sink in. We call it synergy…

What if this facility was also expanded beyond turtles to incorporate the greater marine world focusing on conservancy and protection of fish, coral, etc. Think of the interactive exhibits, think of a real turtle hospital and coral research facility that people could watch through windows, think of the "adopt a reef" and "adopt a turtle" programs that could be possible. Think about the international partnerships with organizations like Oceana.org, much less our own CCMI. Think of the caliber of visiting scientists coming to help, think of the international partnerships with other facilities around the world, think of the international companies that might also support this facility, think of an IMAX theater, dare i say it, think of a swim or dive with the turtles experience — ok maybe not … but think of the local pride that would be exhibited by the emphasis and expansion of this special facility, think of the watersports anddive industry all recommending their guests make sure not to miss something so important.

I could go on, the mind boggles, but I think you can get the picture of what could be.

Green is good right now. Eco tourism is all the rage and environmental tourism is the same. Family tourism and especially interactive/educational tourism is significant around the world as well. Finally, exclusivity is, without question, a huge driving force behind successful destination tourism products around the world, the chance to do something that can’t be done elsewhere.

People want and are willing to pay for something unique and special. People are interested in the marine world and it is in everyone’s best interest, especially the Cayman Islands, to develop and encourage that interest. People want to educate their children and themselves, in an entertaining way, on vacations. People happily pay premium prices for merchandise and additional on-site experience upgrades when they know that a portion of the proceeds helps support the facility and the good things it does.

"The Turtle Farm and International Turtle and Marine Research Center" ticks all the above boxes and would position the Cayman Islands ahead of the tourism curve. It would be important, it would be supported, it could some day be profitable, if it was actually run like a business, or it could be an international not for profit also, if it were really to be a proper scientific facility

Can it be done?

Can we afford it?

What is the alternative?

Think about it. Would you want to come home from your trip to the Cayman islands and tell people about how you went to a pool instead of Seven Mile Beach or snorkeled in a pool with algae instead of the famous real reefs of the island? I don’t think so and so far, neither have our tourists.

Now, what about coming home from the Cayman Islands and in addition to talking about your amazing beach, snorkeling, stingrays, diving,fishing, kayaking, sailing, surfing, submarine, and dining experiences, you can also say you went to the only turtle, stingray and marine facility of its kind in the world and tell everyone something that you learned……

Can we not do it?

Can we not afford it?

 

This Viewpoint was originally posted as an anonymous comment on Tim takes on turles.

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Comments (12)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    At $50 per person (for non residents) it is a joke to be honest.  You can get into Disneyworld for the same money!

     
    • A Louse In Wonderland says:

      But for tickets as for fees recently bumped up by government, when it comes to charging foreigners the Cayman Government can apparently ignore price elasticity completely.

    • Anonymous says:

      People, please quote correct facts or nothing at all. Below is a cut and paste from Disney World tickets site.

      One-day BASE ticket per person:
      $79.00 (Ages 10+) – $68.00 (Ages 3-9)
      Add Park Hopper $52.00; add Water Park Fun & More $52.00

  2. Know Your Market says:

    The name forgets the demographic of the majority of Cayman’s tourists, namely fly-over state Americans.  Why pick a name that most of them can’t pronounce? "Bo’sun’s" Beach just confuses them.

    Maybe the Cayman Turtle and Burger Shack would be better. 

  3. Anonymous says:

    They should turn the facility into a fish farm – agricultural use. That way government would be able to sell and make revenue. If we go independent (God forbid), we would be able to have something at least to fall back on. We can still use the facility for breeding and conservating turles.

    But I don’t think the facility is a good tourism investment…

    That’s my 2-cent

  4. Anonymous says:

    AMEN!

  5. Anonymous says:

    I wonder how many tourists come away confused because they thought they were visiting a beach.

    I think the place needs to be turned over to someone who can turn it into somewhere that explains, shows and celebrates the marine environment of the islands.

    A world class research institue where you actually learn something.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps the writer does not understand the turtle farm is above all a supplier of turtle meat to the local population. The several dozen or so that are released on an annual basis are a byproduct of the turtle abattoir.

    Would the local population be prepared for this change in focus and mentality? Perhaps local comment will answer that…

  7. John Evans says:

    Classic example of losing the plot.

    I first visited Grand Cayman in March 1992, the Seaview Hotel got me PADI certified and on my return to the UK I wrote a story praising the island as a dive destination.

    Over the years I returnedon a regular basis and, in the space of less than two decades, have seen just about everything that made the island attractive to tourists disappear.

    Like many visitors I remember days when dive boats had to queue for the moorings on North Sound, days when dive boats went out off Seven-Mile Beach full with customers from the many (mostly now gone) hotels, condos or guest houses and, above all, the days when Cayman was a friendly place to go diving. Last time I was there conditions were ideal (it was some of the best diving I had done in a while) but you could probably count the number of divers on the North Wall using the fingers on both hands.

    One problem is that I have seen a lot of good dive operations go under and very few come to take their place. Back in the good times a dive operation advertising for staff had to literally beat off prospective applicants with a stick, now they will (and I have seen some of the recruitment paperwork and some of the people hired) struggle to find even remotely qualified staff who want to work in the Cayman Islands.

    Despite this there are still some very good dive operations (and sadly there are also a few I would never consider diving with) on the island but the divers are not coming any more and, with a tourism industry created on diving, nobody seems to be asking, "Why?"

    I admit to being a bit (OK, more than a bit!) jaded by my experience working there but the fact is that Grand Cayman had a damn good thing going for it before they killed off dive tourism by embarking on just about every enterprise you can imagine that was guaranteed to put divers off visiting the island.

    The myth of turning Cayman into a ‘high-end’ resort died when the developers were allowed to turn Seven-Mile Beach into the kind of industrial landscape we used to find in tatty Spanish resorts and the cruise industry raped the island to get few extra cents out of passengers who were already at the bottom of the spending food chain.

    The harsh reality is that Grand Cayman had a market (scuba diving) that it could have nurtured and developed into a long-term asset like many other destinations in the world but it went for a quick buck and the promise of something that was never there.

    The problem now is two-fold. First, hindsight is always 20/20 and secondly you cannot turn the clock back.

    • MonkeySee says:

      I very much enjoyed this post and reply.  Too bad you aren’t able to sway the population…would be nice to see the beach again instead of concrete boulders ( I mean buildings, of course) and even better to know my homeland is taking part in a scientific resurgence of the splendor of our reefs & sealife!  Ahh…to dream the impossible dream…

    • Anonymous says:

      Stopping the dive companies excluding liability for their negligence would improve the quality of the dive companies here.

    • Anonymous says:

      For the first time ever I can say to Mr Evans "excellent comments".