Cabinet minister: New hotel plans under discussion for Cayman


As published in the Caymanian Compass l WEDNESDAY 30 JANUARY 2013
By: James Whittaker

Cabinet Minister Cline Glidden said that confidence in Cayman had spread to the cruise sector with industry leaders expressing interest in a potential partnership to build a new pier in George Town.

– Photo: Jeff Brammer

Government is in discussions over three potential hotel developments which it says would expand Grand Cayman’s tourism options beyond Seven Mile Beach.

Cabinet Minister Cline Glidden said the Cayman Islands Ministry of Tourism had received three “significant expressions of interest” from hotel chains interested in starting new projects on the island.

Speaking during a Cabinet news briefing last week at the government administration building in George Town, Mr. Glidden said the government’s new financial regulations were inspiring confidence from the private sector. 

The minister for tourism would not say which hotel chains were involved, but he insisted they were “substantial properties in the five-star category”. Mr. Glidden said all three developers were looking at properties outside of the Seven Mile Beach corridor.

Over the years, there have been various proposals floated for major hotels outside Seven Mile Beach that didn’t come to fruition. The most recent reported project was to bring a Mandarin Oriental to Barefoot Beach in East End, but that was shelved in 2010.

“We’ve had three significant expressions of interest and of confidence and we are anxious to facilitate and continue to work along with potential developers,” Mr. Glidden said. “Interestingly there has been significant interest in looking outside of the Seven Mile Beach corridor. That is exciting because it allows us the possibility of being able to expand and provide some of the benefits that would be associated with hotel development into some of the other districts.”

He said developers had been on island during the last 10 days looking at locations.

“When we talk about a developer coming to Cayman, even with the concerns about the international economy, and putting forward substantial hotel properties in the five-star category, that is a great indication as to the confidence in the Cayman Islands,” Mr. Glidden said.

The minister said that confidence in Cayman had spread to the cruise sector with industry leaders expressing interest in a potential partnership to build a new pier. A new dock that can accommodate the latest generation of mega-ships is seen as essential to reverse the decline in passenger arrivals.

Talks over a multimillion dollar development in George Town harbour involving a Chinese engineering company were scrapped after the United Kingdom objected to the way the bidding process for the project in the British Overseas Territory was handled.

Now the cruise industry could become directly involved.

Minister Glidden, who met with major cruise line bosses in Miami earlier this month, said several had expressed an interest after the changes to the procurement process were explained.

He said there were a number of options available citing the collaboration between Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and the Port Authority of Jamaica to build a new terminal at Falmouth.

Mr. Glidden said similar deals had been struck in Mexico and Roatan to help finance new facilities.

“We’ve seen in other jurisdictions there is a range of options that are available,” he said. “There are precedents for the cruise lines themselves actually developing facilities.”

The minister accepted that there would be concerns over “loss of control” of the dock, but said the minority government was open to discussions.

“It is not unheard of for the cruise line partners to get involved with development at different levels,” Mr. Glidden said. “The point that was made was that, based on the confidence with the government and with the Cayman Islands, there is the possibility for us to have those discussions.”

He said all the cruise lines had emphasised the importance of a new pier to the future of the cruise industry in Cayman. 

“All the lines were quick to say we are anxious to bring more passengers to your destination, but we need a pier to do so,” he said.

Carnival Cruise Lines has already decided not to dock its new mega-ship, the Carnival Breeze, in Cayman because of the lack of berthing facilities.

Mr. Glidden said there was no chance of the company reversing that decision.

“They have made a policy decision to say that we don’t think the guest experience on our newest ship, our largest ship, will be one that Carnival wants to give if we have to tender those passengers off,” he said. “It is not going to happen. Those passengers are not going to come.” With the trend in the cruise industry moving toward a new generation of mega-ships, carrying upward of 5,000 passengers and crew, the need for proper berthing facilities has become a pressing issue.

Mr. Glidden said industry leaders had indicated the new measures in place to ensure a fair bidding process gave them the confidence to discuss becoming involved in a new pier project 
for Cayman.