Turtle farm should downsize

| 03/02/2014

(CNS): A report commissioned by the Cayman Turtle Farm to measure its own impact on the Cayman Islands' economy has recommended that the facility downsize. The report, which was conducted in May last year by PricewaterhouseCoopers and released on Friday, points out that the farm is very unlikely to ever become profitable without a massive increase in visitor numbers and it should scale back its operations. The consultants said their research indicated that a reduction in scale wouldn’t hurt existing visitor numbers but would help reduce overheads and reduce losses. Although the report has indicated the CTF does have some benefits, such as the employment of around 90 people, most of whom are local, and remains Cayman’s most popular land-based attraction, ithas little hope of breaking even.

Without the more than $9 million subsidy from government, more than half of which goes to pay off the outstanding loan from the redevelopment of the facility, the CTF would be forced to close.

In the impact study PwC suggests that the farm could have a greater chance of holding its own if government went ahead and built the berthing facilities in George Town or if it were to find some other way of massively increasing its share of visitors. More than 70% of visitors to the Farm are cruise passengers and mostly from Carnival and Disney ships.

However, its share of the cruise visitors has declined dramatically over the last five years by some 50%. Although cruisepassenger numbers have fallen over the same period by around 12%, the consultants found that the fall in the Farm’s share of guests could not be attributed solely to the drop in ship calls but the increase in ticket price. It also reveals that the cruise lines have a 50% mark-up on the trip package they sell to cruise visitors which includes the CTF.

In the report, which cost the CTF US$32,000 to commission, PwC created various scenarios where it measured the Farm’s economic impact compared to its government subsidy and found that it has some benefits to the tourism economy. Pointing to its conservation efforts, its employment of locals and its attraction as part of a package of land-based tours, the consultants found it was worth around $40 million over 15 years. With the cruise berthing facility, PwC’s research indicates that could increase, but the consultants warn that the Farm’s heavy dependence on cruise visitors makes it vulnerable.

Although seen as an important part of the package of attractions, the consultants warn that the CIG needs to begin thinking about more attractions if it is to make the berthing worthwhile and there are still no guarantees that the CTF will ever become profitable.

When it assessed the Farm’s position, PwC also considered the conservation efforts, including the turtle release programme, which has since been suspended for at least three years as research work is being undertaken to measure the release impact on the turtle population and the potential dangers to wild turtles.

PwC does suggest, however, that stopping the subsidy altogether would cause further losses for government as closing the farm would take twelve months and government would still have to pay the loan.

Ever hopeful that the Farm still has a future as an attraction and not just as a supplier of local meat, Tim Adam, the managing director of the facility, said in a release that with government going ahead with the cruise berthing facilities, the Cayman Turtle Farm  would be able to increase its visitor numbers significantly.

“The key numbers show that, especially in the scenario of having cruise berthing facilities, there are large economic benefits from the government subsidy to enable CTF to continue operating and having the positive net impact on the wider economy and employment in Cayman. In addition, CTF also provides other benefits in its role in conservation and maintaining our Islands’ cultural and social traditions,” he said.

See the full report below.

Category: Local News

Comments (52)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I wish the report would have done a bit more analysis on the various components of the CTF expenditure. I imagine that it would have found that there are enormous savings to be had from energy and cleaning labour associated with the swim lagoon.

    Coupled with a strategy to increase capacity managemen at F&B, it may have demonstrated that the operations have a shot at earning a modest surplus or at least contributing tothe bond payments which have to be met.

    The operations demonstrate a healthy GP margin. The question then is what efficiencies exist in the operations to swallow up those profits?

    It is a lovely facility with unique heritage and it would be a shame to close it.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I first visited Grand Cayman for my honeymoon in 2004 and was so excited to go to The Turtle Farm. I don't know what I was expecting, maybe a turtle sanctuary, but I was absolutely HORRIFIED. I think it's DISGUSTING what these beautiful creatures are being put through. I fell in love with Grand Cayman and the native people and this place doesn't reflect the love and compassion the people of Grand Cayman exhibit. I am coming back to Grand Cayman next week and I would never ever consider stepping foot in that place again unless it was to picket. There has already been a 50% decline in visitors and the more the word spreads the more visitation will continue to decline. I guarantee if they don't shut this place down now and save the money they wish they had in 5 more years. 

     

     

  3. Anonymous says:

    I sympathize with the 90 employees and the current economic landscape in the Caymans, but neither should outweigh the message the turtle farm sends to those visiting it for the first time. My first visit to the turtle farm was my last, and when I tell my friends to go to the Cayman's, I make them promise not to get tricked into supporting such an inhumane cause. I don't know now what I expected to see there, I was just doing the tourist thing, but upon inspection I couldn't see any good reason for it to be called an attraction. I would call it a sad imprisonment of otherwise peaceful creatures and a sad and unecessary exploitation that cast a shadow on the otherwise wonderful impression the rest of the Cayman experience gave me. Do yourselves a favor Cayman's, close it… under a highly publicized campaign of "it was the right thing to do" and show the world that you too share in the new consciousness of ending animal cruelty in the name of profit. Please.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I don't socialise with those that eat turtle.  It is disgusting and barbaric.

    • Hoping for better days says:

      Come see wa u eat! 'Bout barbaric. LMAO Ignorance is bliss aye!

      Caymanian.

  5. Anonymous says:

    This report makes it clear that even with the Government exposure on the bond question, it could save $4.5m per year by closing the turtle farm.

  6. West Baya says:

    People try and stop eating that old nasty turtle meat, am a Caymanian and that stuff sickens my stomach, yes I've tried it and it's damn right disgusting.  Close that silly place down and stop wasting money. Close Cayman Airways while your at it too.  Grow some balls and make the hard decisions early and by next election those people that had gotten laid off will actually thank you for it.  

    • Anonymous says:

      Thumb up for the first part and thumb down for the second part.

    • Anonymous says:

      It's yummy! And you are not a real Caymanian.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thats the problem as more and more expats get papers then they now talk as Caymanians but at the same time they are  not in touch with what Caymanians have done for a long time and  is apart of them.

        • Anonymous says:

          I am descended from the original settlers in the Cayman Islands and no I don't like turtle meat.  It's nasty and greasy.

          • Anonymous says:

            You need it cooked properly.

            I am descended from both original settlers and I say it is tasty and most generational Caymanians agree. Only those who have lost their identity and SDAs disagree.

  7. Anonymous says:

    The CTF should definetly stop the croinism with the $6 special entrance rates to one special friend of our past leader.

    Us land and sea people, us Caymanians, must pay almost 100% more than this famous fronter – for the SAME wrist band.

    Nice guy he is, buy i think he has enough millions and the people of Cayman should be allowed to compete on a level playing field.

    i challenge our "new" leaders to expose this cronism and correct it.

    YOU ARE CHALLENGED !

  8. Anonymous says:

    90 staff must outnumber visitors some days. I think a conservation / breeding facility is the only justifiable activity and objective for these endangered animals. Close the site to public, reduce staffing dramatically, let the turtles use all the water areas instead of being penned several deep on top of each other. There will still be high running costs due to electrical requirements for pumping / filtration. Also I recall they are still not meeting water discharge quality standards so another big bill lurking there. Possibly even recruit volunteers to help reduce costs

  9. Foreign Devil says:

    Turtle Farm, provide meat for the locals, and rent out everything else to local business people, maybe one day we will make our money back.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I will cast my vote for zerosize.

  11. Anonymous says:

    My son is interested in having his birthday party at the Turtle Farm.  So far, phone calls and emails go unreturned.  Hmmm….wonder why they can't make any money??

    • Anonymous says:

      Don't you love your son?  Is this party a punishment or something? 

      • Anonymous says:

        Haha, it's actually the pool/waterslide that he is interested in – not the turtles!

      • Anonymous says:

        What part of "my son is interested" did you not understand?

        • Anonymous says:

          My son is interested in what his poo looks like.  It does not mean we are planning a party at the sewage plant. 

        • Anonymous says:

          But a loving parent would sit their child down and explain that the Turtle Farm is a horrible, backwards place that should be shut down and that the right thing to do is for people to boycott it.

    • Anonymous says:

      So where is ms. Tina, ms. India or mr. Tim.

      The y dont want your local currency.

  12. Anonymous says:

     

     

    Close that place down those turtle look sick and diseased 

     

    Way too much money evey year from CIG

  13. Anonymous says:

    Speaking of the gift shop – I don't know if there has been a shift in managment but the quality of gift items and choice has improved 100%.  Loads of locally produced things are now on the shelves and more up-market quality gift items from which to choose.  Anybody know who's now in charge of purchasing for the Turtle Farm's gift shop?  Kudos.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Get 'er done.

  15. Grandfather Troll says:

    Where is that Dumazz option to click on!

  16. Anonymous says:

    Get rid of the snorkelling area and put in a small water park for kids.

    • Monogamous says:

      Dear Anonymous,

      Get RID of the turtle farm and put in a BIG water park for kids.

      M

    • Anonymous says:

      Yup, and borrow more money to pay for the alteration.

       

      That would be more "throwing good money after bad".

  17. Anonymous says:

    How much was paid for that common sense revelation?

    Dear God please help this country because this lot are almost as bad as the last when it comes to making consultants like PWC richer

  18. anonymous says:

    The turtle farm does not need to be come profitable…its a Cayman tradition and tourist attraction….It kinda like saying Pedro Castle should be profitable….or the Museum, or Social Services, or MRCU,..or the Police.  It does not need to be profitable…simple. Get over this cultural icon…leave our turtles alone.

    • Anonymous says:

      "Cultural icon", you make it sound like a road.

    • Anonymous says:

      Hence why Cayman is broke

       

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes it does if it's sucking 9million a year out of the coffers, this year,last year, the year before that and before that and it will continue to do so until the plug is finally pulled. Maybe you would like to cough up that dough in the name of tradition? The country simply cannot afford it.

       

    • Anonymous says:

      You really need to work out what the word "culture" means.  I am not talking about the muck floating on the top of the turtle concentration tanks.

    • Anonymous says:

      Cayman never started the turtle farm. It has nothing to do with Cayman's tradition.

    • Anonymous says:

      Flipping turtles on their back to eat later is some cultural icon. I guess hunting the mighty agouti is another.

  19. Unison says:

    Little do Caymanians know that in 1960s it was British and U.S. investors that began the turtle facility. IT WAS NOT FOR CONSERVATION OR PROTECTING THE ANIMALS!  The founders:  Samuel Ayres, Irvin Naylor, Anthony Fisher, and Henry Hamlin, obtained business licenses that were granted by our government to start the facility. IT WAS TO BE A SLAUGHTER HOUSE!  Know you history. Mariculture Limited built the facility for one reason and one reason only – TO SELL OUR TURTLE MEAT OVERSEAS OVER THE COMPETING CAYMANIAN FISHERMEN!  And because our government had regulations in place to prevent them from doing so, Thanks be to God they eventually filed bankrupcy in 1975. Eventually the turtle farm was bought by the Cayman Islands Government and was called the Cayman Islands Turtle Farm.

    It has been almost 40 years, and you would have thought that our government would have promote our local fishermen industry and renew our maritime laws…  all to find that they are following Mariculture Ltd. in having the facility remain a commercial farm of the endangered Green Turtle. In the last 5 years the Cayman Islands Government has spent more than $500 million dollars to sustain a commercial facility for consumption of the endangered animals, and on top of that has used the facility for political / touristic reasons. The result – we have sickly and pale Green Turtles, and because we haven't release most of them, they have become so domesticated they would be unable to fend for themselves in the wild. That is a shame.  

    I have to side with Peter Bottomley, John Leech, Jeremy Corbyn, and Kelvin Hopkins – Stop this production of turtle meat!  Let us move towards promoting the protection of the endangered turtles rather than the production of their meat!  LET US TURN THE CAYMAN ISLANDS TURTLE FARM INTO A CONSERVATIST ENDEAVOR TO BRED, RAISE, PROTECT, AND RELEASE THE ANIMALS BACK INTO THE SEA WHERE THEY BELONG!  TAKE THE MONEY OUT AND THINK ABOUT CAYMANIANS AND OUR ETHICAL VALUES FOR A CHANGE!

    Unison

     

    • Anonymous says:

      "….TO BRED, RAISE, PROTECT, AND RELEASE…..you missed one word there EAT!

    • Anonymous says:

      Good thought Unison, people would actually donate money as well as paying an entrance fee for that cause…

    • West Bayer says:

      Thank you.  In other places its cats and dogs, but here our national animal is the Green Turtle. They are intelligent and loving animals just like cats and dogs, and how we treat them, we are showing to the world that is how we treat our own kind. Think about that. The government need to pull their act together and do what is the right thing to do. It doesn't take a rocket science course.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like a lose/lose proposition.  Hope they take the advice and downsize bigtime.

  21. ThIs WrItInG Is VeRy IrRiTaTiNg says:

    One of the issues seems to be the mark up the cruise ships are charging the passengers for the excursion.  If more of what the passengers are happy paying was going to the CTF the loss would be further reduced.  Can the CTF re-negotiate this with the cruise ship companies?  Alternatively, the CTF could market the product directly to the passengers and keep the full amount.

  22. Anonymous says:

    It is hard to imagine 90 people working there.  Maybe 15-20 employees on a good day (including gift shop)?

  23. Anonymous says:

    In my humble opinion, the Turtle Farm is unique as both an attraction and a conservation effort.  I agree with PWC's suggestion that downsizing is it's only viable method of survival.  However, I read something that I would like to see the basis for and that is the suggestion that if government builds a cruise berthing facility that it will mean more visitors to the turtle farm.  I would like to see how that suggestion was arrived at.  Was there a survey done amongst cruise passengers to determine if the cruise ships berthed that more of them would visit the Turtle Farm?  I know it surely can't be made off the hypothesis that berthing would mean longer time in port and so the cruise visitors would be looking for more attractions to visit and hence the Turtle Farm would mean a logical selection.  That would be as flawed as the assumption that the renovated and renamed Boatswain's Beach could demand $100 per person to visit the facility and attract an even larger customer base than it had at the time it was selling for $8.  For Christ sake, be pragmatic.  Firstly, bear in mind that having a berthing facility does not mean longer time in port.  Secondly, consider the saying, "Been there, done that."  How many times will a visitor want to visit the Turtle Farm before they grow tired of it?  Many of our cruise visitors are repeat customers and a survey would probably be the best way of determining what the real visitor demand for the Turtle Farm is.  Thirdly, remember that people always have options and there are plenty of other things to do in Cayman, with Stingray City probably being the biggest attraction for cruise visitors today.