Stepping up a gear

Look for 2010 to be a year of major announcements and breakthroughs for the Cayman Islands.  This will position us for improved market conditions and good capital appreciation starting a year later, around 2011.

It is encouraging to see government making strategic plans to address the critical infrastructural improvements that are needed, right now, to bring us back into the mainstream of tourism and business. We have been idle for too long, while our competition has passed by us. By planning for business conditions over the next 20 to 30 years, we can take the appropriate action now and protect our future.  It seems that a great deal of work is already happening behind the scenes.

If we can establish some tourism and real estate development momentum, we will be well positioned for any shocks to the market and our economy. One such shock, just around the corner, is Cuba opening to USA tourism, not to mention the increasing competition from other Caribbean and Central American destinations.  

By getting ahead of these destinations and announcing major infrastructural improvements, sustainable real estate development projects, and new improved tourism facilities, we will take the lead in the Caribbean. This will also improve real estate values and strengthen our economy, while giving residents of the Cayman Islands an opportunity to have a better lifestyle, both now and for future generations.

The following is a “wish list” of projects that need to get started, in 2010, for Cayman to regain its prosperity and ensure long term gains for its residents:

1) New cruise ship berthing facility – This has already received a lot of attention and finally seems to be making progress. We came very close to losing a major share of the cruise ship business by ignoring the requests from the cruise ship industry for us to catch up to other destinations and evolve our facilities to accommodate the larger cruise ships that are now coming online.

2) Move the cargo port – This industrial facility desperately needs to be moved out of George Town, which has progress grown over the years into a retail, pedestrian, and financial district. 3) Scale down and “green” the dump – Like the cargo port, over time, a site that made sense years ago, located out of town, has now become a huge problem. Development had no choice but to grow toward the dump. As development grew, so did the size of the dump. Now, we have an enormous site of waste and contamination next to residential areas, a school, commercial and industrial areas. We need a new dump site and this present one needs to be downsized and over time, made into a park or mountain biking course.

4) Move the airport – We really have little choice. Now, with tourism picking up, medical tourism looking to start here, and our financial industry recovering, our current airport will soon not be able to properly accommodate this increased activity – not that it can now. If we do this right and move to a new location in an area with lots of land, we can get our flight path away from overtop of the hospitals, have more land for future growth, extend the runway to diversify our tourism base, and properly accommodate necessary services (larger security area, larger terminal for more airline’s check-in counters/customs/immigration, restaurant/bar facilities, rental car services, shops, etc.).

5) Make Cayman Airways private – This great airline and its staff has help build our tourism industry.  However, the expense and drain on the country, now that we are an established tourism destination with other airlines serving us, is more than we can afford. If government is to divest themselves of one business that costs this country tens of millions of dollars a year, this is a good one. A private entity can run this airline more efficiently and reduce a huge financial burden on Cayman.

 6) Dredge a deep water channel at the edge of North Sound – If done properly, with the improvements in dredging and channel maintenance technology, it would appear that this can be done with virtually no negative impact to the marine environment in the North Sound. If this is true, then a channel that can finally accommodate all the yachts that cruise by us and spend their funds elsewhere.  It makes perfect sense and we need another form of tourism. This could be a large improvement and gain to our tourism base, as the impact from this yachting tourism is millions of dollars a year to Cayman businesses.

7) Lock in the medical tourism plan – The campaign to make this a reality appears to be moving forward at a fast pace. Not only would this be good for the local community, but it would be a windfall for our country’s budget, as the funds from the development of this facility and the medical tourism would largely help fund the other infrastructural projects, mentioned above.

All of these measures are costly. However, it would be far more costly to continue doing nothing and watch our economy continue to sputter downwards for years to come. The time to take action is now, while our competitors are still reeling from the fallout of the global financial crisis.

These essential measures are absolutely necessary, in order to ensure the continuity and growth of our economy.  It will provide an important platform for our children, so in the future, they too will have opportunities and the chance to prosper because of the actions we are taking, right now.