The Eastern Districts Of Grand Cayman The following ‘Go East’ Strategy is an addendum to the National Tourism Management Plan 2009-2013; its aim is sustainable development of tourism in the Eastern Districts of Grand Cayman.
A Strategy for the
Sustainable Development of
The Eastern Districts
Of Grand Cayman
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_____________________________________________________Go East articulates and seeks to promote and preserve the distinctly Caymanian product that exists within Eastern districts of Bodden Town, East End and North Side and to develop a tourism model which benefits the inhabitants of these districts while also boosting the overall diversity of experiences offered by the destination. From a tourism perspective, the Eastern Districts are rich in cultural and ecological value but have remained relatively unknown by our visitors.
George Town and West Bay, in contrast, represent the core of the Cayman Islands tourism industry - with many attractions, the airport, seaport, all major hotels and most established restaurants being located there. The Sister Islands have long had a distinct voice in tourism promotions being renowned for their tranquillity, diving, nature and culture. However, outside of Rum Point/Cayman Kai and to a lesser extent various timeshare properties along the North Coast, the Eastern districts have not had any coherent tourism model. The consequences of the absences of a tourism model for the Eastern districts are both lesser economic advantages for the residents there as well as the unfortunate portrayal that all of Grand Cayman resembles the development along Seven Mile Beach. The Eastern districts complement the breadth of experiences available in Grand Cayman with much Caymanian architecture, natural environment and culture remaining intact and highly visible in these areas.
1.1 Background The Eastern districts of the Cayman Islands comprise the three districts of Bodden Town, East End and North Side on Grand Cayman.
When launched in April 2006, the ‘Go East’ initiative of the Ministry of Tourism, Environment, Investment and Commerce (MoTEIC) aimed to stimulate sustainable tourism development in the Eastern districts. The broad objectives were to:
Distribute the economic benefits of tourism across a wider geographical and socio-economic sector, at a scale and in a form which is appropriate to local residents;
Embrace cultural and heritage tourism and put the spotlight on relevant attractions and activities1;
Improve the country’s carrying capacity for tourism, including the better management of cruise tourism;
Receive input from area residents on the various development and operational models which could be adopted;
Identify ways to increase the level of Caymanian ownership of, and participation in, the tourism industry and then work with these partners to enhance their delivery of a truly ‘Caymanian experience’; and
Increase levels of local employment in the tourism industry, and by extension social improvements such as enhanced pride in the Cayman Islands history and heritage.
References were also made to the encouragement of sustainable development of local businesses, services and attractions; to give residents the opportunity to work closer to home; to ease congestion in west Grand Cayman; to support existing attractions in the East; to encourage scale-appropriate development2; to assist and support small businesses and entrepreneurs and to work alongside community members to develop and implement the initiative.
“Go East is being steered with careful planning within the framework of the National Tourism Management Policy (NTMP), as well as various local laws, regulations and policies, and involves the private sector and a number of government departments and agencies, namely the Ministry of Tourism, Department of Tourism, the Cayman Islands Development Bank, the Department of the Environment and the Cayman Islands Investment Bureau (CIIB).”3
1.2 A new approach to sustainable development
Over the last 18 months, the wider agenda has changed with the Government focusing closely on issues of sustainable development. A Sustainable Development Strategy is in preparation, the Conservation Law is passing through legislation, the NTMP has been updated and the Development Plan is being reviewed.
Hon. Minister of Tourism – Mr. Charles Clifford, Go East Forum, April 2006
“Sustainable Tourism is not a buzz word. It will be the focus of our policy and of our business development as we move forward.”
Go East is now more than just a community development programme; it is a new, strategic initiative which seeks to encompass socio-economic, environmental, land use, heritage and cultural issues into a viable, sustainable economic development programme for the Eastern districts. If successful, it could become a model for development across the Cayman Islands. The business development programme is just the pre-cursor to a wider, more holistic approach to development.
This approach requires a broad vision and strategic objectives to be defined. The NTMP identifies this as a key issue: “The proposed Go East initiative seeks to encourage new, appropriate development in the less developed parts of Grand Cayman. The initiative has popular support but the project needs leadership and further policy and procedure clarification, particularly in terms of the vision, objectives, desired planning controls and incentives.” Careful planning and implementation is needed to spread the benefits of tourism based on guidelines for environmental conservation, cultural preservation and community economic development.
This report seeks to address these issues and provide the appropriate vision and guidance for progressing the initiative.
1.3 Work to date To date, the project has involved a number of tasks:
The establishment of local Go East committees in each of the three Districts;
Discussion forums in each of the three districts;
Training for Go East Committee members;
A business inventory of 136 businesses in the three districts;
A survey of 1,279 residents with response rate of 7.2%;
The identification of local needs in each district;
A review of incentives to best serve business development by CIIB;
A discussion document on tourism in the Eastern districts by the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism (DOT);
A report by the Department of the Environment (DoE) on ‘Setting the sustainability decision-making framework’;
Development criteria from DoT and DoE (see Appendices);
Production of a Go East brochure;
A report on the challenges facing businesses within each district; and
2.1 Physical form The Eastern districts comprise around three quarters of the land mass of Grand Cayman, only a small proportion of which has been developed. Development is focused in Newlands, Savannah, Northward and Bodden Town. There are smaller foci along the coast at East End, Gun Bay, Colliers (the two main resorts), Old Man Bay, Hutland and Cayman Kai with sporadic development elsewhere.
The reef-fringed coastline including North Sound is very attractive with long stretches allocated as ‘scenic coastline’ in the Development Plan. Much of the interior is made up of mangrove/swamp vegetation to the west and woodland to the east. Large tracts are environmentally important and noted as such (Mastic Reserve, Salina Reserve). There are a number of ponds that are nominated animal sanctuaries.
2.2 Population and social services At the last census (1999) the Eastern districts supported a population of 8,214 or 21.1% of the total population. This figure is likely to have grown to around 10,000 based on estimates for the Cayman Islands as a whole in 20074. Bodden Town accommodated around 70% of the population of the Eastern districts in 1999 with East End housing 17% and North Side, 13%. As the fastest growing district, Bodden Town probably now houses an even larger proportion of the population.
The age distribution of residents in the Eastern districts was similar in 1999 to the rest of the country, although there were a slightly higher proportion of children under 14 and slightly less in the 30-49 years age group.
Significantly, the Eastern districts’ population comprises a relatively high, although diminishing, proportion of Caymanians (1999 census):
Bodden Town with 66% of its population Caymanian;
North Side, 71% Caymanian; and
East End, 75% Caymanian.
The national proportion was 53% in 1999.
Income levels per capita in the Eastern districts are just below the national average (1999) and, given the low population base, the overall contribution to national income is modest. There are reported to be pockets of poverty in North Side and East End. Business skills are also said to be limited along with resources for investment.
People in the Eastern districts spend slightly more time on unpaid child care and elderly care than in the rest of the country. Car ownership and internet connections were on a par with the rest of the country as were the age and construction of houses.
In terms of social infrastructure, the Eastern districts have good primary schools and a new secondary school is being built at Frank Sound. There are police stations in each District. Health services are limited although an ambulance station is now available at Frank Sound
Retailing is limited to the new Countryside Centre in Savannah, the Morritt’s Centre at East End and a number of convenience stores and other services e.g. gas stations, hairdressing shops. The Countryside Centre at Savannah is seen as a model development. In the survey of residents, 85% of respondents in the Go East survey indicated that they spent less than 30% of household income in the Eastern Districts.
2.3 Business development Business development in the Eastern districts is modest. In April 2006, the three District Committees identified the businesses operating in their districts5:
Bodden Town, 73 businesses;
North Side, 25 businesses; and
East End, 38 businesses.
Out of the 136 businesses identified, the breakdown across sectors was as follows:
Recreational services, 20.6%;
Agriculture/landscaping, 8.1%; and
Tourist accommodations, 7.4%.
The lack of skilled staff and, in particular, the lack of skilled Caymanian staff to work in the tourism sector presents considerable challenges, nationally. Staff accommodation is also a major problem. These issues are, of course, highlighted in the Eastern districts where the population is small and the impact of immigrants is potentially more explicit.
Another local constraint on business is the cost involved in building in the Eastern districts. It has been reported that costs are significantly higher than in West Grand Cayman owing to transport and labour costs although land is considerably cheaper.
2.4 Physical infrastructure
In terms of infrastructure, the Eastern districts are still catching up with the rest of Grand Cayman:
Piped water installations were completed in 2008;
Waste water continues to be via septic tanks into deep wells;
Telephone communication is available but there are some black spots for cell phones;
The road network is limited to single carriageways of low capacity. This is not a problem within North Side and East End where traffic volumes are low but west of Bodden Town there is severe congestion during morning and evening rush hours, constraining access for all in the Eastern districts, including potential visitors from the cruise ships and West Grand Cayman;
A new east-west highway is planned. In the west, the aim is to relieve the congestion west of Bodden Town. To the east, a secure alternative route is seen to be important. The gazetted route is controversial as it cuts through sensitive areas and speculative sub-division is occurring along the route;
Public transport is limited and considered unreliable and unattractive; and
There are no cycling and very few walking trails.
Electrical power is available from the grid everywhere. A few properties have installed solar power technology;
These issues are cause for concern among some residents although, for a ‘remote’ area on a Caribbean island, the level of infrastructure is relatively very good.
2.5 Conservation and planning issues in the Eastern districts
There is a low level of development in the Eastern districts but it is growing relatively fast in Bodden Town and pressure will probably continue to extend eastwards driven by relative land values, subject to planning constraints.
The marine environment in the Eastern districts is sensitive and needs careful management. Marine conservation regulations are in place including the marine park off Rum Point. On land, the mangrove and identified sensitive sites need conservation and management but until the Conservation Law is enacted, there is no formal protection. Elsewhere, the ‘rural’ nature and open vistas of the landscape offer a contrast to West Grand Cayman and need to be cherished.
The current zonings in the Development Plan6 have been highlighted as an issue in the district consultations. At present, nearly 70% of the land area is Agricultural/Residential but there is still the right to develop one house/acre in this zone. Low Density Residential accounts for 20% of the land area (single family houses as well as apartment development of up to 16 units/acre). Less than 5% is allocated Public Open Space (Salina, Colliers, and Meagre Bay Pond). Around 2% is designated Medium Density Residential (apartments up to 20 units/acre). Hotel/Tourism and Beach Resort/Residential comprise around 1% each of the land area.
Hotel/Tourism Zones can include hotel, cottage colony development, detached and semi-detached houses and apartments. “Development will be regulated to ensure that the needs of the tourist industry are met and that new buildings will in general be related to the needs of the industry.” Other specified aims are:
To ensure that all development enhances the quality and character of visitor accommodation;
To prevent the over-development of sites and “to ensure that the scale and density of development are compatible with and sensitive to the physical characteristics of the site”;
To ensure waterfront developments are designed to avoid interference with natural coastal processes; and
To ensure adequate allowance for public access to the sea.
A Beach Resort zone is supposed “to provide a transition zone between the Hotels/Tourism Zones and the Low Density Residential Zone.” “Development within this zone will generally have the appearance of residential development in scale and massing.” Allowable development in this zone shall include detached and semi-detached houses and in suitable locations, guest houses, apartments, cottage colonies and other tourist related development. Specified aims include high standards of accommodation, amenities and open space.
Under current zonings, there is, in theory, scope for up to 14,800 hotel bedrooms or 5,700 apartments within the hotel/tourism zones. To put this in context, there are 2,100 hotel rooms and 1,970 condo rooms (for rent) along Seven Mile Beach.
The large tracts of undeveloped residential zoning, much on the coast, offer further scope for more tourism accommodation in the form of villas/guest houses, B&B and apartments. Such development, if widespread and ill-planned, also has the potential to impact on the quality of the natural environment of the Eastern districts, particularly the coastline.
Tourism has the potential to be the main driver of the economy in the Eastern districts. It is therefore important to understand the current parameters.
3.1 The scale and nature of tourism
There has been no detailed analysis of the size, nature and value of the existing tourism market in the Eastern districts. However, although the three districts account for only 18% of bedroom accommodation stock, the occupancy rates in all categories are notably higher than the national averages (15% higher in hotels, 7% in apartments for 2007) and so the Eastern districts probably account for over 20% of national stayover tourism7.
Most of the attractions in the Eastern districts rely on this local stayover market for the bulk of their business, supplemented by domestic tourism along with stayover visitors from West Grand Cayman and a few cruise visitors on day trips.
Again, there has been no formal analysis, but the evidence suggests that relatively few of the current cruise visitors venture east. Only 0.6% of respondents to the 2006 exit survey visited Blow Holes which would equate to around 10,000 cruise passengers. Pedro and the Botanic Park probably receive significantly less than 10,000 cruise visitors per annum. Consultations suggest that it takes too long to reach the attractions of the Eastern districts and they are of less appeal to the majority of cruise passengers than the water-based attractions in west Grand Cayman for which Cayman is renowned8. Rum Point has more appeal if accessed by boat but still attracts no more than 1-2% of cruise visitors.
The domestic market is increasingly important in both stayover and day visitor terms. More local residents own property in the Eastern districts, are taking short breaks and visiting to dive, eat out or attend events. This market can account for 10 - 30% of business for operators in the area.
In profile terms, those staying in guest houses (60% of the national stock) and smaller accommodations suggest a particular kind of visitor; those who are seeking a quieter, more natural experience including divers and others wanting a tranquil ‘island experience’ as well as domestic visitors. However, most of those staying at the larger resorts at Colliers are looking for traditional relaxation and the range of facilities on site. However, even in these resorts, there is a noted minority who are taking advantage of other activities in the area.
Eastern districts’ stayover visitors include a relatively high proportion of repeat visitors and a significant number of guests who have visited Cayman before but who now want something a bit different. An analysis of the 2006 exit survey reveals (from a very small sample):
Visitors with a very high average household income (58% over $100,000); the national average was 42%;
A high proportion (69%) aged over 45 years (55% nationally);
A very high satisfaction rating with their visit (85% very satisfied compared with 84% nationally);
A high proportion are very likely to return to the Cayman Islands (48%), 53% are repeat visitors ;
Visitors are generally very satisfied with their visit; as elsewhere on the Islands, the complaints are to do with expense; and
The average amount spent per party was US$2,561 (noticeably higher at the big resorts), comparable with the national average.
3.2 The existing product offer The Eastern Districts offer something special, something quite different to the traditional Seven Mile Beach offer. They offer a lower key, ‘island-style’ visitor experience with the inherent hospitality of Cayman yet still with easy access to essential services. Tourism is still, relatively, under-developed and a small increase in visitors would make a significant difference in business; the Eastern districts are in the early stages of the product life-cycle.
3.2.1 The marine environment and related activities
Like the rest of the Cayman Islands, the Eastern districts core product is water sports. The diving is excellent with capacity for growth; some say it is the best on Grand Cayman. In addition, there are some attractive beaches for casual swimming and good snorkelling. There is sailing and deep sea/reef fishing (Cayman Kai), excellent wind surfing at Morritts/Reef and a niche market in mangrove tours by boat and kayak. However, environmental conditions are very different to West Grand Cayman; the wind impacts on reliability of activities to a degree but more significantly, any mitigation (protective groynes, turtle grass removal etc) by potential developers will have serious impact on the environment.
3.2.2 The terrestrial environment and related activities Inland, there is a network of attractive, unspoilt natural landscape areas that include the Mastic reserve and the QEII Botanical Park. The Salina reserve is not currently accessible but has significant potential, particularly as an extension of the blue iguana breeding programme with enhanced visitor facilities. Some farms are also accessible to the public, notably Willy’s Farm at Hutland. These and other sites offer opportunities for trekking (Mastic Trail) and horse riding (Bodden Town), bird-watching (around the ponds e.g. Colliers, Malportas and Meagre Bay and elsewhere e.g. Governor Gore’s Bird sanctuary) and appreciation of local flora and fauna. The National Trust offers walking tours of woodlands and bird/bat watching tours. As with the marine resource, there is significant conservation and management issues associated with tourism in these areas as identified in the NTMP.
3.2.3 The built environment The Eastern districts display a wide mix of development type and quality including excellent examples of traditional Caymanian architecture and high end modern villas and condos mixed with some less attractive development. The National Trust does guided walks of historic Bodden Town from the newly restored Mission House.
3.2.4 Visitor accommodation The vast majority of visitor accommodation in the Eastern districts is made up of Morritt’s Tortuga (timeshare) and the Reef Resort (timeshare/condos) at Colliers in East End. The two resorts operate at occupancies well above the national average.
The other feature of local accommodation is the number of guest houses and second homes spread throughout the district but concentrated in Cayman Kai. Apartments are also concentrated in Cayman Kai. Many of these are high-end facilities.
Tourist accommodation (bedrooms) in the Cayman Islands by District
North Side / Cayman Kai
GO EAST TOTAL
Seven Mile Beach / West Bay / George Town / South Sound
CAYMAN ISLANDS TOTAL
Source: DOT November 2007 available rooms including licensed and unlicensed properties
* The Reef Resort (124 bedrooms) is licensed as an ‘Apartment’ although offering a ‘Hotel’ service.
There are current proposals for additional accommodation including the Reef Resort (50 units under construction), 80 units at Morritt’s in two five storey blocks and various condo/apartment schemes. There is concern about the height, scale and concentration of development at Colliers which is in contrast to the rest of the Eastern districts.
There are two other large speculative proposals in the Eastern districts including the 114 suite Mandarin Hotel and Spa at Little Point (planning application submitted - in Beach Resort zone) and the ‘Islands Resort’, at Spotter Bay (Hotel/Tourism Zone), a condotel scheme that is being heavily promoted but, at the time of writing, without consent. Another major project involves 45 high end residences at Beach Bay (Hotel/Tourism zone), which has approval.
3.2.5 Visitor attractions There are a number of heritage and cultural attractions in the Eastern districts managed by different parties:
Pedro St James (Government, TAB);
QEII Botanic Gardens (Government, TAB);
The Mission House, Bodden Town (NT);
The Guard House, Bodden Town (NT);
The Farmers’ Market (Saturdays only) (Dept of Agriculture);
Pirate’s Caves, Bodden Town (Private);
Wreck of the 10 Sails, East End and other maritime heritage (Govt); and
Lighthouse Park, East End (NT).
The Old Savannah School House is due to be refurbished by the National Trust.
Various events, both formal and informal, take place in the Eastern districts including the East End Surf Challenge (2000 people), East End Food Fest, ‘Gimistory’ etc.
There are a number of bars and restaurants available for visitors, scattered around the coast but mainly at East End and Cayman Kai. The larger ones include the Lighthouse at Breakers, Portofino, Castro’s at Royal Reef, Over the Edge, Kaibo Beach Club and Rum Point Restaurant. Some are more ‘casual’, including a number that open only at weekends.
3.3 Marketing Go East Overall, the Eastern districts do not feature strongly as a destination in national, pre-visit marketing. Morritt’s, The Reef, Cayman Villas, condo owners etc have their own individual pro-active promotions.
The DOT website currently features Go East on the homepage...
However, the Eastern districts do receive considerably more promotion in on-territory printed materials for day trips. For example:
Local flyers for East End attractions are well distributed;
The Cayman Activity guide has Go East as a ‘Feature Tour’ under sightseeing, featuring all the attractions;
‘Key to Cayman’ features trail riding in Bodden Town, Pedro, the Botanic Park, Iguanas, ‘A birders’ paradise’, ‘Hiking the Mastic Trail’ and ‘Around Grand Cayman’; and
Cayman Airways’ Horizons in-flight magazine featured, for example in the November edition, items on Pedro and the Blue Dragon Trail.
Go East on the website
EXPAND YOUR HORIZONS
Experience the Cayman Islands in a whole new light
It's our heart. Our soul. Our history. Remote yet not removed the Eastern districts of Grand Cayman offer so much more than sun. Heritage sites that connect us to our vibrant origins. Secluded, uncrowded beaches. Breathtaking natural attractions. Some of the best coral reefs in the Caribbean for diving and snorkelling. A world apart, yet so close.
History Explore Bodden Town, our first capital. Revel in the spectacular view from the East End Lighthouse. Open the door into our past by visiting the Mission House, one of our oldest known dwellings. Step inside Pedro St. James, an authentic Caribbean great house and the symbolic birthplace of democracy in Cayman.
Heritage Venture back in time at the Wreck of the Ten Sails site, where legend has it that one of the most famous events in our history occurred. Seek out the rare Cayman Blue Iguana at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. Connect with our pride. And our past.
Buildings of wattle and daub. Gardens that are an oasis for butterflies and birds. Uninhabited white sand beaches fronting clear turquoise waters. Flora and fauna you won't find anywhere else. Pure and natural. Rich in tradition.
The Eastern districts. Close to perfection, beyond the ordinary.
4. A STRATEGY FOR GO EAST
4.1 The national context The Eastern districts’ future is bound by the broader, national context i.e. economic, social, environmental and legal parameters. However, Go East offers the chance to review these parameters and how they might work towards a new set of development goals in the light of emerging policies. It offers a chance to re-consider the form and nature of the development imperative, to manage and conserve environmental resources for local and wider benefit, to address community/social aspirations and to establish legal and procedural mechanisms for decision-making.
In environmental terms, the future development of the Cayman Islands in all respects will be governed by the proposed new National Sustainable Development Strategy (NSDS) proposed to be formulated under the guidance of the Cabinet Office. While it is in still in early stages of preparation, it is envisaged that it will cover four priority policy areas:
Promotion of sustainable consumption and production;
The development of climate change measures to secure energy needs while reducing dependency on fossil fuels and carbon emissions;
The integration of land-use planning, biodiversity preservation, water resource and air quality conservation; and
Addressing sustainable living in the widest sense through the integration of plans and programmes for healthy, safer living etc.
In terms of natural resource protection, the Conservation Law is due to be enacted. This will have a major bearing on the Eastern districts. The new law will provide a regulatory framework within which environmental matters will be managed in the future. The key elements of the proposed legislation are:
The establishment of a National Conservation Council to administer the Law;
Mechanisms for the designation and management of protected areas;
Procedures for the nomination, designation and conservation of protected species;
Statutory requirements for environmental impact assessments; and
Establishment of a conservation fund to be used for the acquisition and management of protected areas and species.
Further control is provided by the Development Plan (1997). In 2002, there was a major consultation exercise which put forward some fundamental proposals for change relevant to the Eastern districts. The key points are summarised below.
2002 Strategic amendments to the Development Plan (relevant to Go East)
Create a Protected Area System using a Conservation Zone and Land Acquisition overlay and a Special Planning Area for other areas of environmental significance;
The requirement for environmental assessment for certain types/ locations of projects;
Greater protection for remnant mangrove on the coast, beaches and coastlines;
A new system of coastal setbacks;
Control the removal of native primary vegetation;
Create a Historic Overlay Zone covering all heritage sites;
Define Cayman Style design principles and discourage standard franchise designs;
Specify requirements for water infrastructure/conservation, waste-water management, notably for all buildings on the coast;
Integration of road plans with the Development Plan;
Community Inclusive Tourism Planning to involve stakeholders in decision-making;
Create a Recreation Overlay for biking and hiking trails;
Change all existing Hotel/Tourism zones to a new Neighbourhood Hotel/Tourism Zone (maximum 3 storeys) outside 7MB;
Create a Nature Tourism Zone linked to the Conservation Zone;
Maintain the natural/visual quality of individual areas;
Discourage franchise architecture and signage;
Require fees in lieu of Lands for Public Purpose and use for recreation areas;
Allow more commercial development and Community Cluster Zones;
Allow for home-based work;
Identification of marina locations and control of water activities.
The 2002 review process was not completed but many of the recommended amendments arrived at six years ago are considered still pertinent to the current review. The new Development Plan review also offers the opportunity to reflect the goals of the Go East strategy.
In economic development terms, the Eastern districts represent a large area of undeveloped land. The main drivers of economic development in the Eastern districts are tourism9, residential and associated service provision. Careful, integrated planning and management of tourism is required, based on the principles of sustainable development within the framework of the NTMP and the new Development Plan. The experience of past development in West Grand Cayman needs to be taken on board. (The focus of this report is tourism but the implications are much wider.)
NTMP policy objectives (2007)
Sustain the quality of the environmental product
Manage the visitor and their impacts
Provide a high quality, sustainable, Caymanian tourism product
Manage the Sister Islands as a destination for nature-based tourism
Develop a highly skilled Caymanian tourism workforce
Attract a more discerning and higher spending visitor
Research and monitor tourism more effectively
Organise tourism in the Cayman Islands more effectively