A question of balance
Since the development of Cayman’s cruise port is such a hot button right now I thought I should focus my discussions this month on the very important subject of infrastructure and how it relates to the real estate industry.
We should closely examine the purpose for building a cruise port. While I can appreciate the needs of business owners, being one myself, I think it’s important to be objective in this regard, and in particular, we should try and take in the wants and desires of others.
As much as I support the development of this country, I also believe in the importance of taking a balanced view, and, in particular, I believe in the importance of preserving the natural environment for our children. And so I don’t believe development should come at the cost of destroying the environment. That said, I don’t believe that the environment should have a complete hold over development either; it’s all a question of balance.
I support the development of the new dock for George Town so long as it can be done without impacting, or with minimal impact on, the reef. This might mean that we have to think about another type of dock development proposal, perhaps with permanent moorings, which would be the easiest fix.
I believe that Government needs to understand that these are very sensitive times and communication methods have moved on from simply newspapers and snail mail into a more immediate means of communication whereby people can gain impressions instantaneously. The Cayman Islands has preached constantly about our pristine clear waters and dive sites for every day of the year, so this seems to go in the face of whether the economic benefits outweigh the environmental impact of constructing a dock.
There is a balance to be had and it doesn’t have to come at the sacrifice of our natural resources. To make cruise tourism work for Cayman I believe we should cap the number of cruise visitors per year and focus on attracting those cruise ships with passengers more likely to spend money in the jurisdiction and I also believe that the taxes levied on each cruise ship passenger could be doubled and that extra revenue put directly to helping the environment. Monies received could go towards cleaning up the land fill or creating a comprehensive recycling system. Visitors would be happy to know that their carbon footprint was being reduced in this way, allowing cruise tourism to promote Cayman’s environment, rather than destroying it.
With that in mind, I believe we should remember the value of a cruise ship passenger in relation to what a stayover visitor spends. Over the years I have heard that stayover visitors spend anywhere from ten to twenty percent more, or perhaps even higher, than cruise tourists. It is therefore imperative that we ensure the best visitor experience for our stayover visitors and focus our attention at providing a strong infrastructure for them. As well the development of the Port (that is sensitive to the environment), this includes the vital redevelopment of Grand Cayman’s Owen Roberts International Airport, which must continue if we are to be able to attract visitors from further afield, such as Europe. This is an absolutely crucial part of infrastructure on which Government should also focus their attention.
Because stayover visitors spend in our restaurants, hotels, shops and attractions, increasing our stayover visitor numbers means money is directly channeled back into the country and back into the community. Our real estate industry thereby flourishes with our residents having more wealth in which to invest in property for themselves, not to mention developing interest from our stayover visitors who may decide to purchase a second home here after their positive experience on vacation for a week or two.
Infrastructure is a very important topic which we need to get right, if the country as a whole is to prosper now, and for future generations as well.