Hopes and promises offered for future of Brac tourism

| 05/09/2011

(CNS): At a tourism awareness event during a long weekend government retreat on Cayman Brac at the Alexander Hotel, Premier McKeeva Bush noted that the GDP of the Sister Islands has dropped from $70 million in 2006 to $60 million now, but offered only vague promises and repeated previous announcements about the road forward. He said that it costs central government $13 million for the administration and running of the Sister Islands, which did not include the airport, seaport or the running of the hospital. “I’m not sure if Cayman Airways is in there either,” he said.

Bush said that he had had discussions with “the Chinese” about the “first class marina and ocean front facility pursued by the Scotts” and said they had made a commitment to build it, but offered no further details. “Of course,” he said, “they have an arrangement with Cayman first and that has to be done before they do anything new.” He has met with the Scott family (of Scott Development, which owns the surrounding land in the area around the proposed dock) and plans to work with them, he said, adding, “I’m not sure that that is something that will happen immediately, maybe two years.”

The premier said he has met with the board of Cayman Airways to discuss the possibility of improving the airlift to Cayman Brac, though he said there were “no promises.” Bush said he hoped that improved airlift would provide opportunities, especially in replacing Divi Tiara (a hotel which closed in September 2006 and is now derelict). He hoped those talking would make headway, he said, without explaining who or what was being discussed, “but it’s difficult to even get people talking, much less put money on the table.” He also hoped that with more properties they could get more airlines to consider routes to Cayman Brac.

There have been a number of applications for million dollar homes on Little Cayman, while on Cayman Brac there has been an application for 12 more affordable homes, he said.

Noting the importance of the existing tourism properties on Cayman Brac, he said, “I don’t know why … they still have problems with the Alexander Hotel.” Referring to the smell that sometimes emits from Salt Water Pond next to the hotel and proposals to alleviate this by letting in sea water, he said, “If it means letting in water, then let the water in …  That family has invested millions in that hotel. The pond is a deterrent.” However, he said, “If I have to move any mountain, then tell me which mountain I have to move.”

He identified lionfish as another problem on Cayman Brac that was “close to a critical situation” and said he was going to work with the minister (Mark Scotland) to offer some type of relief, which might include “a type of bounty system”.

The Brac office Department of Commerce and Investment has assisted 30 new or existing businesses in the 2011 calendar year so far, Bush said. The Development Bank continues to play a critical role in the economic recovery of the islands by providing financial advice and payment relief in restructuring finances. The past year the CIDB has provided financing for home renovations and construction of a new residence and is also financing a commercial venture, which will include a restaurant in phase 1 that is already underway, and a plaza in phase 2. The bank representatives will be on the Brac on 17 September, he said.

The premier repeated a previous announcement about the name change of the Gerrard-Smith International Airport to the Captain Charles Kirkconnell International Airport. “This takes away nothing from Mr Smith and Mr Gerrard and what they did,” the premier said. “I won’t disrespect any of Her Majesty’s past representatives but it was our people who took us to where we are.” There will be an appropriate ceremony in the near future, he said.

In the question and answer section Eddlee Martin noted the high cost of living on Cayman Brac. As an example he checked the prices at each of the three supermarkets on Cayman Brac for a box of Cornflakes that costs $5.89 on Grand Cayman. He said the prices he found for the same size and brand were $12.29, $14.30 and $15.25. “Something needs to be done. We are being taken advantage of,” Martin said and suggested that the government, which buys heavily from the local stores forsocial services, should boycott them until they bring down the prices. The premier said that there were no statistics on prices and a survey would be done so the government had a better idea of what to do, but he noted the economies of scale in servicing a smaller population.

Heavy equipment operator Raymond Scott complained about the high cost of fuel, which is currently $6.01 for diesel and $5.83 for gasoline on Cayman Brac, and asked why the government insisted on using the two fuel companies, Esso and Texaco, and did not buy from other sources, such as Petrojam in Kingston, Jamaica, or from Cuba, which, Scott noted, the government was already dealing with to buy other commodities. In response, the premier noted the MOU he had signed “to explore the matter” of oil refinery for Grand Cayman, which he claimed would “be cheaper all round”.

Scott also complained bitterly about the price of a licence to clear up beach property (CI$5,000), and said that he has been harassed by the Development Control Board and the police for doing so, saying that government workers did the same thing with a lot less care, since he always saved indigenous trees and shrubs wherever possible.  He said he had been arrested and humiliated for making “a few scratch marks” and this had made it difficult for him to feed his family.

The regulation concerning movement of matter on properties is being looked at, the premier told him, but they have to take advise from the planning department. “We have to follow guidelines,” he said.

The meeting on Cayman Brac also served to launch the national CaymanKind campaign, which was launched in the international market earlier this year. The Brac event was the first of a series of town hall meetings, which are planned throughout the islands.

In a presentation given by Rosa Harris of the Department of Tourism, Brackers learned that the campaign will educate the local population in the Cayman Islands about tourism and “evoke random acts of kindness as a way of life.”

Rock climbing on Cayman Brac is highly rated by enthusiasts of the sport but has never been promoted by the Cayman Islands government, but the DoT says it now has the “green light” from the premier to explore the possibilities. However, this is still in the early initial discussion stages.

In other initiatives for Cayman Brac, the DoT is planning a week long musical event, and better signage for tourism has been designed but has not progressed beyond the conceptual stage.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Why the heck does the DoT have to 'get the green light' from the Premier to promote rock climbing as a reason to visit………………….

    In my mind this sort of pettyness is endemic of the reasons why Cayman is so ineffecient and hard to do business in at times – surely the DoT are allowed to promote the Islands as they see fit within reason and this sort of interference should be done away with immediately.

  2. Anonymous says:

    >>Here's what I think of the UDP's Cayman Brac retreat:

    Just an excuse for the UDP ministers to drink and revel while keeping a low profile.

    >>Here's what I think of the meeting:

    A forum that just brought forth promises and announcement made at the last time the UDP ministers came up.


    The incompetence of our current government…


  3. Anonymous says:

    So, has he spoken to Divi?, he promised he would sort it out but the silence on that subject is DEAFENING!!!!!!!!. It's the usual "waffle waffle waffle" again, and NOTHING HAPPENS!!!.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Cayman Brac and Little Cayman are and always will be the gems of the Cayman Islands, but for whatever reason the government is unable or unwilling to promote them properly.   

    In a very short time when Grand Cayman becomes over developed and over populated, the sister islands will be the mecca for tourist when the Cayman Islands is mentioned.  The businesses of the sister islands should unite together and promote their own ads to air on social media, be creative.  YouTube and other social sites are there, advertise all over the internet more people are now on the internet than those that watch conventional televison, forget about bulletin boards all over the world social network is the way to go use it. Once you are able to get direct jet services from a USA city to the Brac three times per week, all you have to do is sit back and watch the sister islands grow. 

    Don't be in a hurry to sell your property, do joint investments or enter into leases.  Save whatever properties that are left for future generations.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Why do we pour more money into this black hole and rather let the free Market drive new ideas? After all we are all told again and again on CNS what great businessmen the Brackers are.

  6. Anonymous says:

    “I don’t know why … they still have problems with the Alexander Hotel.”

    Maybe it's because the developer built their hotel next to the Saltwater Pond Animal Sanctuary, which has smelt bad for many, many years. Once they built their hotel on the banks of the pond the smell did not go away. No surprises there really. Now they want to turn the pond into a marina.

    Farewell Cayman Brac’s last Animal Sanctuary. Let’s hope that you do not set a precedent for the Brac’s few remaining “protected” areas – protected until the money comes along.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Give Cayman Airways the $9m dollars they arre investing in the Hurrican Hilton to operate a nonstop flight three times a wekk from the New York area….Tourism problem resolved!

  8. Mal Area says:

    Referring to the smell that sometimes emits from Salt Water Pond next to the hotel and proposals to alleviate this……he said, “I am sure the extra pungent odor that has been present this week will clear up as soon as our delegation departs.”


  9. YoungBraca says:

    Dont get me wrong and with all due respect to Capt Charles but i feel that the airport name should be changed to honor a different Kirkconnell, Capt Mabry who was one of our best elected officials and who helped to make Cayman Brac into what it is

    • Anonymous says:

      Which is…?  According to Brackers, an over-priced economic sinkhole.

    • Anonymous says:

      "..into what it is" – I guess you could name the Welfare Building Reception Area after Mabry then…

    • Ole Bracker says:

      Why the *%$$^* does the airport name need to be changed?  Will it make it any better?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Question why are we going to rename the airport after Capt. Charles Kirkconnel  dont get me wrong  He was a great man but name something else after him that he played a big part off like the Rest Home that was once the Kirkconnel rest Home.

    Rename the Airport if we really have to after  Mr Linton Tibbetts who invested alot into the Tourism and Aviation for the Brac just read our history.


  11. Anon says:

    Oh Dear.. Now he will get Dart to Adopt the Brac…

  12. Anonymous says:

    great material for mckeeva's next song!!!

    don't worry braccers everything soon come…maybe….2 years maybe…but no promises!!!hahahahah

  13. Anonymous says:

    "We have to follow guidelines" he said. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, you cant make this stuff up.

  14. biker says:

    "it cost 13 million for the administration and running of the Sister Islands"……

    Anyone recall what the annual cost is to keep the new, improved "Turtle Farm" open?


    • Anonymous says:

      Biker, 12.07, the last published figures showed, as far as I recall, that the Turtle Farm, aka Boatswain's Beach, was costing the taxpayer around $800,000 per month, or ten million per year in subsidies. (I hereby disclaim all responsibility should anyone suffer from a heart attack on being reminded of these heart-rending numbers.) It's also tragic to think that 100 Range Rovers or even Bentley Continentals, (with the hand-stitched turtle-leather trim, and tortoiseshell-inlaid steering wheel), could have been given away annually by the Government to people like me, for the same loss. I could have done with one of those…

    • Anonymous says:

      That's about $10,000 per citizen. Wouldn't it be easier all around just to mail them checks?