GoToCayman.com - News from Cayman (ISSN: 1744-7690)
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According to a report issued by Hurricanecity.com, Cayman is the worst place in the Atlantic basin for tropical storms/hurricanes (see http://www.hurricanecity.com/Rank.htm).
Based on data for tropical storms from 1871 to 2006, 61 storms passed Cayman within 60 to 70 miles, putting Cayman top of their list with on average a storm passing every 2.23 years.
Just before Hurricane Felix swept past Cayman, Durty Reids at Red Bay was demolished. It has now been announced that 'Durty' Reid Dennis has signed a two-year lease with the Tourism Attraction Board to operate the café at the historic Pedro St. James and is now open for business.
A new census at Grand Cayman’s stingray interactive sites, Stingray City and the Sandbar in the North Sound, is to be undertaken by the Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI) next year. When the last study was undertaken in 2002, they tagged 165 animals in the sandbar, 22 from the stingray city site and 45 wild animals from around Grand Cayman that don’t interact with humans, as a control.
The Department of Environment’s Assistant Director – Research and Assessment Tim Austin said that information from the last study was useful and some aspects of it were incorporated into new regulations, now being enforced, which designate both the Sandbar and Stingray City as Wildlife Interaction Zones (WIZ).
He added that the study "helped to determine the required size of the various WIZs and allowed the DoE to compromise its stated position of no more additional stingray feeding sites and allow potential sites within the boundaries of the WIZ as these would be the same rays and no new population of rays would be impacted."
After the previous study, the GHRI made recommendations that footwear should not be allowed in the shallow sandbar as their studies confirmed an abundance of human induced injuries to rays from footwear. This suggestion has been incorporated into the WIZ regulations.
Boatswain's Beach, the new home of the Cayman Turtle Farm, announced discounted pricing up the end of 2007.
"We have decided to offer these discounted rates until the end of the year to allow both Residents and Visitors the opportunity to enjoy the park extensively," their representative said. Guests can now enjoy the entire Park for only US$55 for Adults and US$25 for children ages 4-12. Residents (with local identification) can enter the entire park for only CI$10 for adults and CI$4 for children ages 4-12.
Over the last 17 months government has issued over 41,617 work permits. For the period (April 2006 to August 2007) this is broken down into 10,367 annual permits, 20,729 temporary permits and 10,521 renewals.
Leader of Government Business the Hon. Kurt Tibbetts agreed on behalf of Government to consider a mandatory photo identification system to assist law enforcement officers, security officers, school officials and others in carrying out their responsibilities. In a debate on the topic, George Town MLA Alfonso Wright pointed out that at present many under-age individuals are able to gain access into night clubs and other events and similar premises.
The motion also noted that with population increase and cultural diversification, it is no longer possible to easily identify individuals. Also, homeland security is of greater importance in today's global situation. Law enforcement officers feel the lack of a proper identification system in the proper execution of their duties.
Mr. Wright recalled that there have been three Private Member's Motions seeking such a system in the past, two of which were accepted by the governments of the day but nothing came of them. The motion in 1987 failed, while the ones in 1989 (which called for the voluntary adoption of an identification system) and another in 1994 (which called for compulsory IDs) both passed in the House.
The need was for a user-friendly ID system, he recommended, and one which could also include additional information, such as health needs of the person which would prove invaluable in life-threatening situations. Cards were less bulky and safer options than passports.
Accepting the motion, Minister Tibbetts noted that a system like the Drivers' Licence which is valid for three years at a time could be installed. However, decisions about age groups and extending the system to embrace all residents would have to be looked at, he said. A national ID system would have to cover all residents, he added.
A slowdown in the pace of economic expansion as gross domestic product (GDP) grew at an
estimated rate of 4.6 percent, down from 6.5 percent a year ago.
The estimated mid-year population reached 51,992 growing by 7.5% over the mid-year population in 2005. This population growth being faster than the nominal GDP growth in 2006 resulted in a slight decline in GDP per capita to reach CI$39,137 in 2006.
Economic growth in 2006 was stimulated on the demand side by renewed growth in demand for tourism services, government consumption and government capital spending as demand for investment in capital goods receded with the completion of the post-Ivan reconstruction work and in the midst of a rise in real interest rates. Upward movement of demand indicators include those of consumer imports (up by 24.6%), electricity consumption (up by 14.9%) and water consumption (up by 19.9%).
The year 2006 saw a strong recovery in the tourism sector: visitor arrivals totalled 2.2 million, an increase of 11.7% over 2005. Air arrivals surged by 59.3% to reach 267,257 in 2006.
Construction remained a growth sector in 2006 as building permits reached 1,290 (or 33.3% higher than in 2006) valued at $445.8 million.
The Consumer Price Index moved up throughout 2006. From -0.9% in March 2006, the inflation rate inched up by 0.9% in June, 1.4% in September and 1.6% in December. Nonetheless, the average inflation rate of 0.8% in 2006 represented a sharp decline from the 7.3% in 2005. This can be attributed to the increase in supply of private residences to cause a downward pressure on housing cost.
Total employment as a proportion of the labour force improved to 97.4% in spring 2006 from 96.5% in fall 2005. Hence, the unemployment rate fell to 2.6% compared to 3.5% in fall 2005.
Net domestic credit extended by the commercial banks increased by 9.1% to reach $2.1 billion. This was comprised of net credit to the public sector which rose by 5.5%, and credit to the private sector which rose by 9.4%.
The net foreign asset position of local commercial banks increased by 18.5% to $4.7 billion, mainly as a result of increases in investment and loans to non-residents.
The Legislative Assembly has passed the Freedom Of Information (FOI) Bill into law, which will come into effect in April 2009. Of the new bill, Leader of Government Business, the Hon. Kurt Tibbetts said "As a result of public input, greater emphasis has been placed on the general principles of maximum disclosure and releasing information in the public interest. These principles provide the foundation on which Government can begin building a new culture of openness. For example the scope of the bill ensures that Government ministries, portfolios, and statutory authorities are all defined as public authorities and even Cabinet is not excluded from a FOI request."
After some speculation, it has been confirmed that the Links at SafeHaven, the only full-size golf course on the island, has been purchased by Michael Ryan, the developer of the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman, for $80 million with effect from 26th October 2007. It is thought that some of the course will be used to expand the existing 9-hole Ritz-Carlton course to a full 18-hole course. The remaining land would be sold or developed.
This has caused some concern amongst residents and visitors as the Links was the only full-size golf course open to the public. Generally Ritz-Carlton facilities are only available to their own guests.
Twenty-five-year-old Rebecca Parchment of West Bay was crowned the new Miss Cayman.
Minister for Education Alden McLaughlin announced that an extra year will be added to the public-school system, to be used for technical and vocational training. At a Chamber of Commerce luncheon he said "No one should leave the high-school system and go straight into work. We are going to add another year to high school so no one leaves without a skill. Some sort of post-secondary training will enable everyone to leave the system with some skill.
"We have never had difficulty attracting students to things like law, accounting and business; the difficulty we are having is with 70% of students acquiring the skills, qualifications and interest to allow them to take up some kind of technical and vocational educational training."
He added that the new national curriculum would become mandatory in the Cayman Islands' 19 public schools and among their 4,600 students in September 2008. It aims to shift traditional teaching patterns away from rote blackboard learning to a more dynamic, interactive and flexible style, improving learning and producing better graduates.
Cayman's Christmas stamp issue has been released. They feature images based on stained-glass windows from some of the churches on Grand Cayman. The stamps feature stained-glass windows at Wesleyan Holiness Church (25¢); Elmslie Memorial Church (50¢); St. George's Anglican Church (75¢); East End Seventh-Day Adventist Church (80¢); First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman ($1) and Frank Sound Church of God ($1.50). The image on the First Day Cover, which has all the stamps affixed to it, is a handmade quilt in the Little Cayman Baptist Church. The leaflet which accompanies the First Day Cover offers a brief history of the churches along with an explanation of the windows.
For more information contact the Philatelic Bureau at mailto:email@example.com
Future plans to grow the sport of scuba diving in the Cayman Islands, a sport which has had its share of challenges, were discussed this week by the public and private sectors. The Cayman Islands Tourism Association’s watersports committee met with the Department of Tourism Tuesday in order to refine Cayman’s strategies to grow the sport over the next two years.
"The sport is in the mature phase of its lifecycle and the major certifying agencies, manufacturers and trade associations are developing strategies to deal with these challenges," explained Director of Tourism Pilar Bush in a response to questions on the dive industry from the Caymanian Compass.
The sport has been suffering from a flat rate of growth and even periods of decline, she said.
"Over the past decades, the average active traveller has more and more choice of leisure activities and on average less and less time to participate in leisure activities," Ms Bush said.
The CITA's Immediate Past President and Operations Manager of Red Sail Sports Rod McDowall noted, "There's a lot of competition out there and people have options to go to lots of different places. I don't think we've as many repeat visitors as we used to. It's just a general competition factor."
The main challenge, Ms Bush said, is that the sport of diving was at its peak in terms of active participation and rate of new certification the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Showing the sport as more of a social activity and including scuba diving imagery in mainstream consumer travel marketing have been strategies previously employed by DoT to market the sport, along with getting active younger celebrities such as Jessica Alba on island to learn to dive as a way of broadening the appeal of the sport.
The 9/11 terrorism attacks in the United States did not help the dive industry either, and the Caribbean hurricanes of 2004 and 2005 negatively impacted diving in the region.
Both Mr McDowall and CITA's Watersports Director Ron Kipp noted that diving here peaked back in 1998 and has been soft since then.
"The dive industry has been very ill since 1998, right along with the general stay–over tourism market," said Mr. Kipp.
Mr. McDowall stressed that the stay–over sector is the bread and butter of the diving industry and less focus on this sector is detrimental to the dive industry.
Steve Broadbelt, chairman of the CITA Watersports Committee, said of the dive industry, "We have the same challenges as all tourism businesses, and that is the need to increase air arrivals." He puts the health of the dive industry at six on a scale of one to 10.
The industry has also changed from around the time of 9/11 in that many of the big operators are gone. A number of businesses closed down because of Hurricane Ivan, also including Bob Soto's, Parrots Landing, Treasure Island Divers and Fisheye.
Now there are lots more smaller operators, and it’s more difficult than previously to make a living, said Mr. McDowall.
Immigration, fuel costs, the usual ongoing issues of dock and beach access, marine resource management and the cost of doing business are challenges facing the industry locally.
Runaway costs have made most businesses very marginally profitable, said Mr. Kipp. "Costs which have caused our product to be both perceived and in reality too expensive."
Cost of living is also affecting staffing, said Mr. Kipp. "The dive industry was always a 'fun' industry that many people entered for its lifestyle, not financial rewards. But you must make enough money to pay the rent on your shared living space, eat, etcetera. That is a very tough challenge for most diving employees today."
September and October, as always, are slow again for most operators in the business.
Mr. Kipp said it has been very bad since June and that this year September and October seem "terrible" for the dive industry.
Mr. Broadbelt said that at his own business, Ocean Frontiers, they lost their boat dock in Hurricane Dean and as a result business was down approximately 25 per cent from September 2006. "Other operators have reported a 15 per cent downturn in business in September 2007 from 2006."
But Mr. Broadbelt noted that putting a spotlight on one specific month is no way to make a business decision and that the year as a whole should be given a lot more weight. Therefore, year to date in 2007 business is up six per cent on the same period at Ocean Frontiers.
Mr. Broadbelt said that most dive businesses are not back to 2003 levels as yet since Hurricane Ivan, but from information shared within the CITA, that benchmark is being closed in on.
Although it is difficult to get accurate dive numbers, without a single reporting agency for the sport, the Director of Tourism said she is encouraged by recent reports of an increase rate of new diver certifications and they hope to get better information during the upcoming DEMA show in Orlando later this month.
Loss of some of the more "affordable" properties on the island can be seen as another factor that could turn some divers away.
"There is always room for more budget oriented accommodations," said Mr. McDowall.
Mr. Kipp mentioned the loss of Treasure Island, Indies Suites, Seaview, the Sleep Inn, Cayman Islander, Divi Tiara, Spanish Bay Reef and soon to go Beach Club. The loss of some properties has put Cayman out of the budget of some divers, Mr. Broadbelt said.
"However, don't get the impression that divers don't have any money – 70 per cent of Ocean Frontiers customers have an average household income well in excess of $100,000 per annum."
While the DoT collects general visitor expenditure information, it does not have detailed information on the relative spending of divers vis–à–vis other types of visitors with which to provide an accurate assessment of their unique and relative value to the destination, said Ms Bush.
One concern that Mr. McDowall voiced is that diving is not in the primary section of the Cayman Islands target audience.
"I think it is important not to lose the fact that Cayman diving has been very important for the islands over the last 30 years," he said.
But the Director of Tourism noted that the dive market remains a key target group for the Cayman Islands. "It is the second most important category so it remains very important at this stage," she said.
The dive market lies in the "extender" target with romance, beyond the core targets of families and travel trade.
Ms Bush explained, "The Cayman Islands target visitor profile is arrived at in consultation with and with full participation of the CI private sector, dive's relative position reflects the government and private sector's respective assessment of its value to the country."
Ms Bush said that there has not been any decrease in the marketing efforts of the Cayman Islands as a dive destination and a full mix of advertising, public relations, special events, tradeshows, on–island dive fairs, and direct marketing are used to promote the sport in all three islands.
Mr. Broadbelt said that the dive industry is very excited about the USS Kittiwake Shipwreck project (a 251-foot US Navy submarine rescue ship) for sinking in 2008 and that the government has always given tremendous support to make this happen.
Indeed, Mr. Kipp believes that getting this project underway could prove to be as major a boon to the diving industry as Stingray City was to the snorkelling group.
The dive industry is also very thankful to Cayman Airways for adding non–stop flights from JFK. "This has made a positive impact on most tourism businesses and we look forward to new efforts to increase air arrivals and stay–over tourism," said Mr. Broadbelt.
A wave runner rider, Edsell Alberto Haylock was fined $300 after pleading guilty to a charge of navigating a vessel in such a manner as to cause risk of damage to people or property. The offence occurred within a diving zone near the Cracked Conch Restaurant in West Bay on Sunday, 1 July.
Crown Counsel Tanya Lobban said Haylock was riding the wave runner as close as 50 feet to shore within a diving area while scuba divers were in the water. The wave runner narrowly missed a diver, according to one report.
Acting Magistrate Valdis Foldats accepted the guilty plea. He noted the seriousness of the offence, but gave credit for Haylock's plea and the fact that he had no previous convictions. The maximum fine for this offence is $1,000.
The fourth annual Cayman Stingray Tourism Awards were presented by the Cayman Islands Tourism Association at the Westin Casuarina Resort.
The awards included: the Restaurant Manager of the Year award went to Martin Hoetzl of Blue Restaurant, the Ritz–Carlton, Grand Cayman; Ivan Lee of the Ritz–Carlton, Grand Cayman won Watersports Manager of the Year; Gladys Howard of Pirates Point Resort on Little Cayman won a Long Service Award; Mike Flowers won a Special Contribution Award; Merilyn Malone of Cayman Airways won the Transportation Employee of the Year; Louie–Mae Parchment of Sunshine Suites won Accommodations Employee of the Year; Delva Ebanks of the Westin Casuarina Resort won a Long Service Award; Annie Bush of the Westin Casuarina Resort won Restaurant Employee of the Year; Kenrick Webster of Websters Tours won Transportation Manager of the Year; Brandee Elise Milman of Divetech won Watersports Employee of the Year; Fernando Soler of the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort won Accommodations Manager of the Year; Justin Uzzell of Cayman Free Press/Key to Cayman won Allied Manager of the Year; Anthony Clarke of Red Sail Sports won the Rising Star Tourism Award; Garfield Ebanks of the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort won Accommodations Employee of the Year; Allied Employee of the Year went to Ann Ogden of Celebrations. Ms Ogden was in Little Cayman for the filming of "My Destination Wedding with the Knot," which will see a featured couple have their destination wedding, at the Southern Cross Club to be aired on (US) Style TV in 2008.
Friedman Paul Erhardt, the ebullient German–born cook known as "Chef Tell" who opened Chef Tell's Grand Old House on Grand Cayman in 1986, died of heart failure at his home in Upper Black Eddy, Bucks County, Pensylvania. Erhhardt was 63.
From 1st November, the Hyatt Hotel have ceased their involvement with running Rum Point.
Rum Point Investment Ltd. will take over management of the property.
There were 20 Hyatt staff members working at the Rum Point location and a majority of those have decided they want to stay on working at Rum Point under the new management.
General Manger of the Hyatt, Diego Concha, recently said the Rum Point staff would be given options such as staying on at Rum Point under new management if they so wished, or to return to work at the hotel, or some might choose to go elsewhere.
Adrien Briggs, co–owner of the site said that under the new management there is very little that will change about the property, and they are even hoping that they won't have to close down during the change–over.
One aspect of change that hopefully will take place is the plan to get the Rum Point restaurant open for the winter season. The restaurant has been out of commission since Hurricane Ivan struck Grand Cayman in September 2004. "We're trying to get the restaurant open for the coming winter but we have no timetable on that for the moment," Mr. Briggs said.
There are no current plans to reopen the ferry service that has not run since Ivan. However, he did say there are plans for some evening sails from the west side of the island to Rum Point, but not as a scheduled ferry service.
Red Sail Sports will remain operating at the property.
The Public Transport Board approved a $1 increase on the base taxi fare, raising it from CI$7 to $8 and also approved a 20 per cent increase on the mileage and hourly rates from November. Taxi fares were last increased in 2002.
After a public meeting to discuss options, work on the proposed wall to stop
storm flooding in the Savannah Gully area is likely to go ahead. Under the plan, the wall will stretch almost 2,000 feet, at a height of between two to seven feet above ground. Engineers from US based engineering firm Orth–Rodgers and associates told the meeting the floodwall will prevent about 96% of the water from overtopping in a direct hit from a Category 2 hurricane, and more that 90% effective for a Category 3 hurricane approaching Grand Cayman from the south.
The Atlantic department store has reopened at the newly constructed Governors Square on West Bay Road. The original store on the waterfront in George Town was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan, and afterwards the store moved temporarily to one of the malls in George Town. The new store is 9,000 square feet and sells features men's and ladies' clothing, shoes, accessories, gifts, party goods and artwork.
Cayman Airways have started work on rebranding their aircraft. The first 737-300 has returned to service after a 'C' check and major overhaul in Costa Rica with the new livery. The tail fin now features part of the Cayman Islands coat of arms, with Sir Turtle now on the side of the plane near the loading doors (see http://www.caymanairways.com/company/news_and_alerts.php?mode=show&ak=136). Sir Turtle's head has been spun around on the starboard side of the aircraft for the sake of conformity with the rest of the logo. The interior of the plane has also been updated, with Sir Turtle head rest covers and the coat of arms depicted on the walls.
Board Chairperson Angelyn Hernandez said "We wanted to enhance Sir Turtle and his role and we needed to anchor our aircraft with something which identified our fleet anywhere it was seen, with the Cayman Islands. We needed to demonstrate that we are a proud and bold country. We believe that the design of the coat of arms flying high on our tail with all the glorious colours is such a representation".
Over the next year other aircraft will get their new identity as they go in for the industry mandated 'C' checks. Other aspects of the brand enhancement campaign, such as uniforms, stationary, business cards, ticket counters, web-site, advertisements, vehicles and signage will be gradually updated.
From 1st January 2008 there are new rules about the transport of spare Lithium Metal and Lithium-Ion batteries.
The US Department of Transportation (DOT) through the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) will no longer allow loose lithium batteries in checked baggage.
For further details see http://safetravel.dot.gov/whats_new_batteries.html
A new non–stop service between Boston and Grand Cayman, starting on 12th January 2008, was announced by US Airways.
Flights will operate once a week on Saturdays using the 124–seat Airbus 319 aircraft. The schedule has the outbound flight leaving Boston at 8:00am, arriving in Grand Cayman at 12:19pm.
The return leg is scheduled to leave Cayman at 1:05pm, arriving back in Boston at 5:00pm.
Golfers can enjoy a round again after the North Sound Club opened. Formerly called Links at SafeHaven, the recently sold course closed down temporarily for renovation by its new owner, Ritz–Carlton developer Michael Ryan. Members were worried that they would no longer have access to the only public 18–hole course on Grand Cayman and they were afraid they wouldn't be able to afford the fees. Members have access to the course for at least the next year, when the course is due to be redesigned by golf legend Greg Norman.
Marketing director for Ryan Developers Ltd, Brooke Clark said "Our membership package is now finally available". "We only closed for three weeks and felt the pressure. We had a lot of amazing people working very hard and for long hours to make this happen.
Clark said the new membership fees are reasonable. They are roughly the same as before.
"We worked very closely with Davey Ebanks, the manager of the club here. He was also the manager of SafeHaven. We also kept the golf pro here, Sean Wilson. They were both heavily involved in creating the membership programmes. We really valued their input and their golf expertise.
"Another thing we did was that we went all over the Caribbean, the States and Mexico to look at other golf programmes to make sure we were in line. We're actually extremely reasonable. I've worked at quite a few golf courses and our fees are not excessive."
Individual membership is $3,000 initiation fee and $3,000 annual dues, which can be paid in two parts. The club is also getting luxurious carts next month, which haven't been available since Hurricane Ivan hit three years ago. The guest fee is $100 per round, inclusive of cart and green fees. Membership is only valid until 16 November, 2008, before Norman starts the redesign. Membership is also available on a corporate, junior, student and non–resident rate. Anyone joining in the New Year will be given a pro rate.
"As we get nearer to that date we'll know better how ready we are in working on the course. Norman's Great White Shark Enterprises have signed on officially to redesign. When the course is shut down for the redesign we will refund 80 per cent of a member's initiation fee."
There is a founder membership fee of $100,000 which is part of the community development concept. When the real estate goes up in the future, all of the founder members' fees will be transferred toward the purchase. Prices of the cheapest condos are expected to start at around $750,000.
All the properties will be around a series of connecting canals and waterways so residents will literally be able to arrive for a round by boat. The only proviso is that if a founder member hasn't bought any real estate within five years then the North Sound Club reserves the right to cancel membership.
One of the events of this year's Pirate's Week was a cardboard boat race. Red Sail Sports narrowly edged out a smaller Livingston Group Pith Heads vessel to take the inaugural cup, with the Tequila Pirates coming in third.
Red Sail's Dan Bond said his crew had simply hoped for buoyancy. "When we first built the boat we designed it for two people but it kept getting bigger, weighing in at about 300 pounds of cardboard. So we put six people on it and just hoped that it would float – and it did."
The Planning Department's entry – a Caymanian style floating cardboard house – finished seventh, but took the title of best boat design.
Radio Station X107.1's boat made it little more than a few boat lengths before capsizing, but took the day's two most dubious awards: most spectacular sinking and shortest race.
The Economics and Statistics Office Semi-Annual Economic Report to the end of June 2007 has been published and is available online at http://www.eso.ky/UserFiles/File/Bi-annual%20Economic%20Report,%2007.pdf. The report shows: The average Consumer Price Index rose by 3.7%, mainly due to higher average prices for personal goods & services, food and household equipment.
Work permits declined by 4.6% to total 20,286.
Money supply expanded by 21.3% due to strong growth in foreign currency deposits held by residents.
Merchandise imports rose by 17.8%.
Air arrivals grew by 8.4% while cruise passengers increased by 2.6%.
Mutual funds grew by 14.4%.
Bank and trust licences decreased by 3.4% while insurance licences increased by 2.2%.
Stock exchange listings increased by 26.5% while stock market capitalization rose by US$36 billion, an increase of 39.7%.
New companies registration increased by 13.2%.
The value of building permits spiked by 36.4%, while the value of projects approvals declined by 15.2%.
A company hired to remove scrap metal from the George Town Landfill owes the Cayman Islands government nearly $1 million, apart from whatever cash the company's subcontractors claim they were not paid.
Works and Infrastructure Minister Arden McLean also revealed that 45% of the original amount of mixed metals Matrix International Ltd. was slated to remove remains at the landfill. Mr. McLean said most of the scrap has already been separated, sorted into piles and made ready for baling.
Matrix, which is 60 per cent Caymanian–owned and 40 per cent owned by Canadian Bruce Young, was declared in default on the scrap metal contract 19 September. On 2 November, the government temporarily suspended all operations of Matrix at the landfill and demanded full payment.
A $500–per–day penalty would be applied for late payments, according to Mr. McLean. Government has received just $310,000 of its $1.25 million contract with Matrix, which signed the scrap removal agreement in March with the intention of selling the materials it procured from the landfill. Mr. McLean said that contract remains in effect through mid–March 2008, and the minister said he had received no indication that Matrix simply did not intend to pay.
Mr. Young blamed government for some of the problems his company has dealt with on the contract. Mr. Young said it took the government three months to sign the contract after it was awarded. He also said repeated break–downs have plagued the scrap metal baler, which belongs to the government, and have slowed things up on the job site.
For the second year in a row there were fewer named storms than predicted during the hurricane season.
In the end, the 2007 hurricane season yielded six hurricanes, two major hurricanes and 14 named storms. The six hurricanes and two major hurricanes are the norm for the Atlantic basin. The norm for named storms is 11.
Both of the seasons major hurricanes – Dean and Felix – reached Category 5 strength and passed through the western Caribbean Sea. Three days out, Hurricane Dean was forecast to cross Grand Cayman, causing the government and residents to fully prepare for the worst. More than 7,000 tourists and residents were evacuated as Dean approached, and more than 2,200 people went to hurricane shelters on the evening of August 19th.
Fortunately for Cayman, a high pressure system kept Dean from gaining latitude and the storm passed just more than 100 miles south of Grand Cayman, causing only minimal storm surge and wave damage.
Forecasters had predicted a more active season. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Hurricane Center predicted 13 to 17 named storms; seven to 10 hurricanes; and three to five major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher.
The Colorado State University team of Philip Klotzbach and William Gray predicted 17 named storms, nine hurricanes and five major hurricanes.
The U.K.–based Tropical Storm Risk forecast 16.1 named storms plus or minus 3.8; 8.9 hurricanes plus or minus 2.6; and four major hurricanes, plus or minus 1.5.
Members of the Overseas Countries and Territories Association (OCTA) have unanimously elected the Cayman Islands to chair and host its annual ministerial meeting in 2008.
The OCTA has 17 members. They are Anguilla; Aruba; British Virgin Islands; Cayman Islands; Falkland Islands; French Polynesia; Greenland; Mayotte; Montserrat; Netherlands Antilles; New Caledonia; Pitcairn; St. Helena and dependencies; St. Pierre and Miquelon; French Southern and Antarctic Territories; Turks and Caicos Islands; Wallis and Futuna. The OCTA has a website at http://www.octassociation.org
The Tourism Attraction Board has launched a US$16 "Discover the East" Adventure Card provides free admission to both the Pedro St. James National Historic Site and the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park.
The Adventure Card features a map that highlights the eastern districts of Grand Cayman and identifies the locations of each sponsoring business and attraction. The back of the Adventure Card lists ten exclusive money–saving values that are only available to card holders.
Gilbert Connolly, CEO of the Tourism Attraction Board said, "Standard admission to the Pedro St. James and the Botanic Park would normally cost a visitor US$20. The Adventure Card costs only US$16 and represents a great value by giving visitors admission to both of these Caymanian treasures."
Card holders are entitled to:
A free gift with paid admission to the National Trust’s Mission House in Bodden Town;
10 per cent discount on goods (excluding gas) from Lorna’s Texaco in Bodden Town, with $20 minimum purchase;
20 per cent off one adult admission to the Pirate’s Caves in Bodden Town;
10 per cent off of all fresh juices at Lookout Fruits and Juices in Bodden Town;
15 per cent off any bottle of wine/champagne with dinner at the Lighthouse Restaurant in Breakers;
A free sample of traditional Caymanian cake with any meal purchased at Vivine's Kitchen in East End;
A US$20 savings on Discover Scuba Diving at Ocean Frontiers in east End;
A free cup of coffee with breakfast at Ye Olde English Bakery in East End;
One free dessert with a meal purchased at Over the Edge Restaurant in Old Man Bay;
A complimentary rum punch with an entrée purchase at Kaibo Beach Bar and Marina in Cayman Kai.
A late storm in December - Tropical Storm Olga, which brought heavy rains to Cayman, upped the statistics for the 2007 hurricane season. Final analysis by the National Hurricane Center show that there were six hurricanes and 15 named storms.
After 20 years the Hyatt Hotels and Resorts are pulling out of Grand Cayman. On the back of their decision to stop running Rum Point. "Following a successful presence on Grand Cayman for two decades, Hyatt has announced that its 20 year contractual agreement expires on December 31, 2007 after which date it will no longer manage Hyatt Regency, Grand Cayman," said a statement from Hyatt Hotels and Resorts.
From 1st January 2008, the 53–suite hotel will operate under the new name of Grand Cayman Beach Suites and be independently managed by the owner.
General Manager of the Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman Diego Concha said that the hotel will still be operating under the same ownership so all the staff members' benefits and salaries will carry on through, remain the same, and retain their continuity into the future.
"The only thing that really changes is the name," he said. He said full flexibility is being given to staff members for whatever decision they make. If some members wish to go to another Hyatt that decision will be supported, or if they wish to stay on with Grand Cayman Beach Suites that will be welcomed.
Mr. Concha expects the transition from Hyatt to an independent property to go very smoothly.
Mr. Concha himself, being Hyatt management, will eventually be leaving the hotel, but he asserted his commitment to the transition process.
"I will continue to be here for as long as I'm needed, until the key executive positions are in place. "Hyatt will maintain a presence here as long as necessary to ensure a good transition."
He also noted that Hyatt is committed with the owner for future investments. "Hyatt has enjoyed a positive and mutually beneficial relationship with Embassy Investments and both parties will continue to pursue future opportunities together," the press release stated.
Other aspects of the property such as Bamboo and Hemmingways restaurants and Britannia will remain known by their current names, Mr. Concha said.
When asked about the insurance settlement for the landside of the hotel, which has been pending now for nearly three years, Mr. Concha said the owner is still in negotiations on the issue and it is hoped an outcome will come about soon. That side of the hotel has lain disused since Hurricane Ivan damaged it in September 2004.
He said the Hyatt pulling out of the hotel is purely because its 20 year contract has come to an end.
Speaking about his roughly 135 staff members, Mr. Concha said, "I'm so proud of each and every one of them. They're attitude is 'we will move on and make this an even greater place'. They are such an amazing group."
Speaking about the hotel's achievements as an operation within Hyatt, he said that they were in the top 20 hotels for customer service and number two for food and beverage.
"That says a lot about our people," he said. "And I believe our style will have continuity."
Mr. Concha said he told his staff, "You are the soul of the property", and added that the property would go from strength to strength because of them.
"Hyatt remains fully committed to Grand Cayman as a luxury resort destination and remains optimistic for the future as opportunities on the island present themselves.
"Hyatt will be forever grateful to the owner, employees and loyal guests of Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman, and wish the very best to Embassy Investments and the employees in the future success of the property."
A new discount warehouse, Cost–U–Less, has opened for business at Governors Square. Cost–U–Less sells bulk goods, similar to other North American–style warehouse stores. However, it also sells fresh produce, fresh seafood and meats, appliances, clothes, tools and a variety of other products, all at competitive prices.
The first businesses have moved into Dart's Camana Bay development. Ernst & Young, Cayman National Bank, and London & Amsterdam Trust Company, opened their offices in November, and the first retail units - Books & Books bookshop (http://www.booksandbooks.com) and multi-screen cinema Go Hollywood (http://www.gohollywood.com) opened in December.
A report for the Chief Secretary and The Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs predicts the population growth of the Cayman Islands over the next 20 years.
The report was prepared by Principle Policy Advisor Philip Pedley and titled 'Population Scenarios: Past Trends and Future Possibilities'.
The report looks at the growth of the Cayman Islands since its settlement and in some detail at the tremendous growth over the past 37 years.
Between 1970 and 2006, the average growth trend for the Cayman Islands has been 4.73 per cent per year.
Cayman's population grew slowly but steadily for more than 250 years after it was settled in the early 1700s.
However, since 1970 the growth has been fast and steady. The population was estimated at 10,068 in 1970, 17,018 in 1980, 26,969 in 1990 and 40,800 in 2000. By the end of 2006, the population was estimated at 53,172, although the report acknowledges a feeling in some quarters that the figure is underestimated.
Based on population growth scenarios of two, three, four, five and six per cent per year over the next 10 years, Cayman's population in 2016 would be somewhere between 64,816 and 95,223. For those growth rates over the next 20 years, Cayman's population in 2026 would be between 79,011 and 170,530.
"How will the population change in the next 20 years?" the report asks. "The question has important implications for every area of government policy and public life, from the number of schools needed, to demands on the healthcare system, to environmental, social and infrastructure pressures, to the size of the George Town landfill."
The Cayman Islands Government and Caribbean Utilities Company signed an Agreement in Principle as a precursor to signing a formal agreement for Grand Cayman's electricity provider.
Based on December 2007 fuel costs, residential consumers using less than 2,000 kilowatt hours per month will save 12.2 to 15.9 per cent on their current bills. Smaller commercial enterprises that use between 500 and 5,000 kilowatt hours per month will save between 3.7 and 8.8 per cent of their current bills.
Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said the agreement, which is not legally binding, represented a breakthrough for the consumer in controlling the cost of living and in ensuring the reliable supply of electricity in the future.
"In addition to a fundamental restructuring of the entire electricity industry… the AIP that we have signed today will lead by the end of next month to the signing of two new licences for CUC – one for generation and one for transmission and distribution – both for a period of 20 years."
A formal agreement and licences are expected to be signed in January.
Mr. Tibbetts said the cost of fuel – which is charged to CUC customers as a pass–through expense – represents about 40 per cent of electricity bills. To counter the high cost of fuel, the Government has agreed to give CUC a 20–cents–per–Imperial–gallon rebate on the duty it pays on fuel.
Any increase in current fuel prices of 20 cents or more would negate the current estimated savings, but would still lower customers' bills from what they could be.
"While we have no control over [world fuel prices], we'll do the best with this that we can," said Mr. Tibbetts. "But whatever we face, the rest of the world has to face."
As part of the agreement, CUC has agreed to forego the Hurricane Ivan cost recovery surcharge.
Electricity Regulatory Authority Managing Director Phil Thomas said there was still CI$2.2 million of the agreed $11.3 million Ivan surcharge to be collected.
"CUC is basically walking away from $2.2 million in cost recovery surcharges," he said
The new rates will take effect 1 January 2008.
Also as part of the agreement, CUC has agreed to freeze its base rate through 31 May 2009. Although the next general elections will most likely take place earlier that month, Mr. Tibbetts said the timing of the rate freeze was "absolutely coincidental".
Future CUC rate increases after that date will be subject to a rate–cap mechanism that will adjust the base rates in accordance to a formula that takes into account inflation as measured by a blend of U.S. and Cayman Islands inflation indices.
A clause in the Agreement in Principle will allow CUC to implement a temporary surcharge in the event a catastrophic event causes significant losses to the company.
CUC President and CEO Richard Hew said the provisions of the clause are standard in the electricity industry and he explained why they were necessary.
"Investors and lenders won't come on our side unless the major risks are covered," he said.
Turtle Farm story I.
The Cayman Turtle Farm is to be investigates by The Office of the Complaints Commissioner (OCC) whether the farm has ignored, possibly for decades, its obligations to discharge water, sewage and other substances from its West Bay property in a safe and environmentally sound manner. Complaints Commissioner John Epp said there is no evidence that a licence allowing the tourist attraction to discharge effluent has ever been granted since the Turtle Farm was purchased by government in 1983. Effluent includes all discharges from the property, liquid or solid, which flow into the sea.
The OCC's investigation will focus on whether a marine discharge licence is required for the Turtle Farm or if it was somehow granted an exception, and why there was a failure to get that licence if it was needed.
The investigate will also focus on what the complaints commissioner said was a potential conflict of interest with the person supervising Turtle Farm operations.
Joseph Ebanks was named chief operating officer of the Turtle Farm in January, and took over as acting managing director when Mr. Hydes resigned in September. Mr. Ebanks is a member of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors.
Mr. Epp said it was obvious that problems with the effluent discharge licence started long before Mr. Ebanks was named chief operating officer at the Turtle Farm. However, he noted that shortly after Mr. Ebanks was given that position, the facility was allowed to put fish in its saltwater lagoon attraction… with no evidence that a discharge licence had been granted.
"Could Mr. Ebanks have influenced the Water Authority to turn a blind eye? It is a question we'll ask," he said.
The Ministry of Tourism released the following statement behalf of Mr. Ebanks:
"The management and staff of Boatswain’s Beach (Cayman Turtle Farm) recognises and respects the authority granted to the Office of the Complaints Commissioner under the law. As Acting Managing Director of Boatswain's Beach, I welcome and will cooperate fully with the OCC."
"Effluent disposal licensing has been an on going issue for several years now and it was a priority on my 'to do' list when I took on the role of acting managing director approximately three months ago. To reiterate, everyone here at Boatswain's Beach will do their part to assist the OCC with their enquiries which we hope will enable a speedy resolution."
The OCC investigation will begin in January.
Turtle Farm story II.
There was more bad news from the Turtle Farm when it was revealed that the Boatswain's Beach tourist attraction is losing about $500,000 every month.
Cheques issued to members of staff and suppliers recently bounced when presented to local banks. Boatswain's Beach Acting CEO Joey Ebanks said he was off island on official business at the time and immediately rectified the situation on his return.
Despite the financial woes of the tourist attraction, which opened in late 2006, Mr. Ebanks said the situation was getting better.
"We are seeing improvements," he said, noting the tourist attraction had earlier been operating at a loss of more than $1 million per month. "There have been tremendous cost cutting measures."
The old Turtle Farm used to be a profit–making facility and employed just 35 people. With the opening of Boatswain's Beach, operating expenses and the number of people on the payroll skyrocketed. However Mr. Ebanks explained the operation already trimmed back the staff numbers somewhat.
"We have gone form 117 employees to 109, so we are using staff members to do more and we are accomplishing more with less," he said. "This is helping to drive the expenses down."
"We made mistakes with the pricing and we are getting that corrected," Mr. Ebanks said.
In addition to putting in place a realistic pricing structure, Mr. Ebanks said the business was working on strategies to dramatically increase the number of visitors to the attraction and the retail sales. There are also plans to improve the entertainment and product offering.
"We are going to take our current 20 per cent market share and we are going to double it in the next 18 months," he said.
The Department of Tourism – which has more global reach and established marketing networks – has agreed to assist over the coming months, Mr. Ebanks said. With the DoTs help, Mr. Ebanks said the target of doubling Boatswain's Beach is realistic, given the upbeat six–month forecast for visitor arrivals.
Turtle Farm story III
The Cayman Islands Turtle Farm is experiencing a marked increase in the mortality rate of young turtle hatchlings and at the same time the number of viable eggs produced by the herd is steadily diminishing.
The combined effect of the two factors is causing real concern about the long–term outlook for the farm and its ability to satisfy local demand for turtle meat.
Acting CEO Joey Ebanks said changes were necessary. "It has affected our release program," he said. "I am going to have to eliminate it for a while and cut back on the total amount of meat we produce for consumption.
Mr. Ebanks said he was putting together a steering committee to start a research programme to address the problem.
The Government has advised Mr. Ebanks that the farm is his number one priority, he said.
Turtle stew is the national dish and has cultural importance. Mr. Ebanks said there are concerns that if the supply of meat decreases enough, it could result in an increased level of turtle poaching of the remaining wild stocks.
"What we are doing right now with our chief Scientific Officer, Joe Parsons, is working towards developing a stronger relationship with Gina Ebanks–Petrie at the Department of Environment," Mr. Ebanks said. "This is helping us put together a research team that can help us pull… expertise from around the world that we need to increase our production."
Currently the shells from the turtles that are slaughtered for their meat end up in the landfill. Mr. Ebanks said he is now taking steps to make polished shells available once again, while at the same time introducing a mechanism to protect wild turtles from being exploited for this commodity.
Mr. Ebanks said shells from farm turtles would be tagged by a process approved by the Department of Environment.
"We want to ensure that the shells that we sell can be identified and that if anyone takes turtles from the wild population, DoE can take the necessary steps to prosecute."
One of the largest watersports outfits on Grand Cayman, with dive shops
at the Hyatt, Marriott, Westin Casuarina, Ritz-Carlton, Courtyard by Marriott
(ex Holiday Inn), Rum Point and Sea Grape offering a full range of dive
packages, plus sailing, water-skiing, kayaks, waverunners and tube rides.
Also has four catamarans that offer snorkeling trips to Stingray City, and
sunset sails and dinner cruises. Their sister company Tortuga Divers
operates at Morritt's Tortuga Resort
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