How the next phase of this world-class development will affect Cayman’s economy
When describing Dragon Bay, what usually comes to mind is a vision of a unique and exceptional water-based community, but during these difficult economic times, the more important picture is what the project means for the economy and people of the Cayman Islands.
What is truly compelling for the larger community is to know about the financial benefits of Dragon Bay because that will have both national and individual implications.
It all started with the 144 acres that became The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman Resort. Coming on-stream a little more than a year after Hurricane Ivan devastated Grand Cayman, the energy and income the resort generated were much-needed, to say the least.
More specifically, the opening of The Ritz-Carlton translated into US$1 billion of direct and indirect economic impact for the Cayman Islands, when considering the major investments for planning and construction, along with salaries for staff, duties on items like food and fuel, and other expenditures such as electricity and equipment.
For the almost five years since, the resort has generated more than $120 million annually, which each year has equated to about 5 per cent of Cayman’s gross domestic product. Despite the global economic woes of the last few years, the direct and indirect impact of the resort’s ongoing operations in 2009 again matched that figure, which benefited both the Government and the people of the Cayman Islands.
A major emphasis has always been hiring local companies and employing Caymanians to undertake as much of the work as possible.
In fact, the list of businesses that have contributed to the construction and maintenance of the resort and subsequent phases reads like a who’s who of Cayman commerce.
Among the dozens of local companies that have worked and continue to work on Dragon Bay are Hew’s Janitorial, A. L. Thompson’s, Mike’s Ice & Refrigeration, Island Paving, Advanced Road Construction & Paving, Hydes & Sons, National Concrete, Watler & Hislop Well Drilling, Watler’s Metal Products, APEC Consulting Engineers and Massive Equipment Rental & Sales.
Equally important are the individuals The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman Resort regularly calls upon who, while not affiliated with a large company, nevertheless meaningfully contribute to the operations on a daily basis.
Chefs from signature restaurant Blue by Eric Ripert, for example, maintain strong relationships with local fishermen, buying the freshly caught fish right from the boats.
There are others, including sub-contractors and service providers such as electricians, carpenters, plumbers, tilers, air-conditioning technicians, gardeners, mechanics and the list goes on and on.
The entire development directly employs about 1,000 people, divided into those working for The Ritz-Carlton hotel and the rest of Dragon Bay, which includes the North Sound Club, Orion Development, and the staff involved with the Endless Service Program.
The resort alone employs more than 20 per cent of Cayman’s total work force in the categories of hotels and condominiums, and restaurants and bars, based on the latest figures from the Economics and Statistics Office.
The entire Dragon Bay project employs one of the highest percentages of Caymanians of any company on the island, a statistic that holds great significance for owner/developer Mike Ryan.
“This is home, this is where I live, it is important to me that the benefits of Dragon Bay stay here in Cayman. When the economy grows, it is good for everybody. And while the percentage of Caymanians on our workforce is among the highest, we want that number to go even higher and will work to make that happen.”
The best way to accomplish that is to push forward with the future phases of Dragon Bay, despite the current economic picture, Mike explains.
“The Cayman Islands needs employment and the government needs new sources of revenue. The fastest way to ensure both is to start work on a new phase on an already existing project.
“We can do that with Dragon Bay. I am committed to seeing this project through and have never wavered from that goal. All the plans and necessary resources are in place that will enable us to start work today. The first two phases of the project have proven we do deliver for the island.”
With phased construction planned over 15 years, the economic multiplier effect of the build-out alone will be substantial; including the original resort, total direct and indirect expenditure of the planning and construction of the entire 364-acre Dragon Bay project is estimated at US$2.44 billion. Along the way, each completed element will generate its own revenue which will contribute directly and indirectly to the local economy on a recurring basis.
The master plan also includes a marina village, with mixed-use areas, including retail and service, plus a boutique hotel; a world-class spa resort; expanding the Blue Tip golf course into 18 holes, complete with a clubhouse, and tennis and aquatic facilities; a variety of residential offerings; and a new Port Authority marina.
“The 15-year construction plan for Dragon Bay allows us to maintain a continuously high level of building activity which ensures involvement by the variety of local companies we have been depending on through the initial phase,” Mike points out.
“In other words, Dragon Bay offers an internally generated source of employment and revenue, one that will continue when the project enters full operation. But integral to that goal is government cooperation throughout the build-out. Therefore, we are working closely with government to ensure that our efforts and theirs are well-coordinated.”
Once completed, Dragon Bay will represent the culmination of a broad-based vision that benefits the Cayman Islands as a whole, says Mike.
“Our focus is the same as it’s always been — to take advantage of the special opportunity that the Cayman Islands has created as the Caribbean’s most cosmopolitan, safest and most diverse environment, offering the best lifestyle and community in the world. Our goal is to build on these strengths to make these islands the essential destination for investors, for visitors and for those seeking second homes, and, most importantly, the best home for the people of Cayman.”