In business development terms, the Eastern districts have few local entrepreneurs. CIIB was established to encourage and support appropriate business development in the Cayman Islands. It provides free technical assistance to local entrepreneurs regarding the formation, management, financing and/or operation of a business enterprise in the Cayman Islands. Training assistance includes marketing advice, help on employment and IT issues etc through workshops, seminars, individual counselling and the facilitation of access to potential funding opportunities, including the Cayman Islands Development Bank (CIDB)10.
CIIB has no formal status in legislation and limited resources to cover the full range of support, guidance, monitoring and business policy advice services that such an agency should perform but has supplemented these with creative use of volunteers and external support (UCCI etc) to cope with increasing demand for their services.
CIDB focuses on sustainable funding and related advice particularly for the small indigenous business sector. Although funds are limited, the bank will assist those who have creative and workable ideas that can be translated into viable projects in any field of business. It can provide micro-business lines (The Ministry is currently preparing an incentives programme for Go East. Incentives could include:
Technical assistance/business advice11;
Debt financing in conjunction with CIDB; and
Duty waivers to help enhance the viability of appropriate ventures12. The Hotels Aid and Customs Laws allow for duty waivers and other incentives for hotel developments.
There is now a Government commitment to prepare new primary legislation to supersede The Hotels Aid Law13, bringing it up to date and reflecting the wider aspirations of such incentives e.g. to support for more than just hotels. A new Law will enable special regulations, including any special provisions for Go East.
The Chamber of Commerce also provides advice and support to its members through such programmes as the Professional Development and Training Centre and its mentoring programme. Training services are also available through the DOT and others and most banks promote their advice and funds for small businesses.
4.2 Challenges and opportunities in the Eastern districts The Go East initiative is set in this wider environmental, economic and business context. It seeks to encourage small, local businesses, (and others) using local employees, to look at scale- and design-appropriate, sustainable developments in a range of specific sectors including – but not limited to - tourist accommodation, restaurants, water sports and retail establishments.
As with the NTMP, the issues which this Go East Strategy has to address involve three questions related to:
4.2.1 Can the market drive further growth? Go East must be market driven. Although tourism development in the Eastern districts is limited, there is evidence of the potential market from what has happened on the ground and international trends.
On the ground, the major investments at Morritt’s and the Reef Resort - and their exceptional performance in occupancy terms and onward development plans - provide evidence of market demand in the area. The interest of others (including, but not limited to the proponents of the Mandarin Hotel and Islands Resort proposals) although not yet breaking ground, indicates that developers are looking at the area. At a smaller scale, there is further evidence of demand in the development and performance of smaller schemes (Turtle Nest Inn, Ocean Frontiers, various restaurants) and the growth in the number of guest houses.
However, it is difficult to measure potential demand for small scale new developments from within the community. To a large extent, this must be an act of faith based on the evidence on the ground, evidence of business approaches to banks and CIIB etc (which have been numerous) and identified aspirations14. The evidence suggests that demand of this sort exists but needs to be teased out and nurtured by supporting infrastructure and procedures, good information about the potential and the right business support.
International trends would also appear to lend support to the potential of ‘island-style’ products.
Visitors are looking for new, different and distinctive experiences, to indulge special interests and have more active and enriching holidays15;
There is a significant market segment who want tranquillity in a destination;
Niche markets, including heritage and nature, are becoming important supplements to traditional source markets; and
Visitors are becoming more environmentally aware; an increasing number are thinking about their carbon footprint and many are looking for the same ethic in their destinations.
Within Cayman, there is an internal driver in that there is a clear need to diversify the offer and the Eastern districts are in a position to offer a new product based on their natural beauty, heritage and tranquillity along with the primary advantages of Cayman (security, infrastructure, reliability, friendliness etc.)
The Eastern districts offer the opportunity to locals and other developers to enter the market at a lower cost than in West Grand Cayman. There is no certainty in the market potential but given the size of the country, growth is going to happen in the Eastern districts at some stage. The priority is to make sure that any new development is managed and controlled.
4.2.2 How much development can the Eastern districts take? Physical conditions and current zonings currently offer plenty of physical scope for new development although there are environmental, infrastructure and perceptual constraints, mainly to do with accessibility.
The NTMP states that there is scope for new development in the Eastern districts, confirmed in local consultations, with the proviso that the nature and scale of such development is well planned, is of high quality, is built in the context of a new environmental code, is designed with a distinctive Caymanian character of its own and sensitive to the environmental constraints of the site and its terrestrial and marine surroundings.
Although it will be important to enable development of sufficient scale to be viable and to stimulate interest in supporting services, it is imperative that development in the Eastern districts learns the lessons of Seven Mile Beach; that new development needs to be proportionate in design, scale and labour requirements. “Roughly 99% of survey respondents expressed some concern that limits are needed on development.”16 Ideally, it would be possible to set short term targets that allow phased development that can be monitored and controlled in line with community aspirations. Carrying capacity is going to change in response to the market, infrastructure provision, community development and the quality of development that comes forward. However, the current zoning system of the Development Plan does not allow such flexibility, unless moratoria are implemented on relevant land-uses as and when required.
4.2.3 What do local residents want from the new development?
From consultation with local interests, it is clear there is no rejection of development per se, or of larger projects per se. However, it is clear that locals are looking for business opportunities and jobs and for tourism to help support a range of services and infrastructure of benefit to them. Perhaps even more important, they are looking for more and better control over the form and nature of new development. There is a real concern about disenfranchisement from the decision-making process.
The survey of residents identified interest in setting up tourism and retail businesses, the need for more business guidance and development that was not wanted or needed. From this research, a set of initial recommendations was prepared by the District committees, including action on:
Public education on the ‘Village Tourism’ concept;