The general manager of the Courtyard Marriott Steven Schwartz responded incredulously on Wednesday to criticism that the hotel had privatised a section of Seven Mile Beach for the exclusive use of its guests.
The Courtyard Marriott came under fire when another print publication reported it had ‘cordoned off’ an area in front of its beachfront bar, which is located very close to the shoreline.
Four signs reading ‘Please Note: This area is reserved for Courtyard guest only. Please see beach attendant for chair rentals.’ are erected on posts on the beach side of the bar, although there is no structure actually cordoning off the beach.
Subsequent discussion of the situation on local talk radio prompted Bodden Town independent candidate Sandra Catron to write to Mr. Schwartz requesting the signs be taken down immediately.
When contacted, Mr. Schwartz, who took over as general manager when the hotel reopened after Hurricane Ivan, seemed surprised at all of the commotion.
‘Those signs have been up for years as far as I know,’ he said, noting that they had not gone up since he started at the hotel.
‘It’s one small area in front of the bar and it’s above the high water mark,’ he said. ‘And to my knowledge, we’ve never chased anyone out of there.’
Mr Schwartz took umbrage at the suggestion that the Courtyard Marriott was trying to keep its guests away from the local population.
‘It is totally not true that we are trying to segregate our guests,’ he said, noting that many Caymanians come there on the weekends.
Mr. Schwartz said the hotel only wanted to ensure that its guests had beach chairs and a place to go on the beach.
‘Sometimes the beach is very crowded with cruise ship tourists and they sometimes use our chairs,’ he said. ‘We’ve had many comments from house guests that they have no spot on the beach.’
Mr. Schwartz said his hotel had been unfairly singled out, especially since it goes beyond its own responsibilities in maintaining the beach in the area.
‘We maintain a huge section of the beach there,’ he said, estimating the stretch to be 1,200 to 1,500 feet of beach.
‘We clean it, rake it, move sand around, and pick up trash from others. All we want is a 30 to 40 foot area for our guests,’ he said.
Mr. Schwartz noted that the beach is very shallow on the property, but the hotel has never tried to prevent beach access or walking traffic below the high water mark.
Regardless of the legalities involved, Mr. Schwartz said he was going to remove two of the four signs and is looking into changing the wording on the remaining two signs.
‘The new wording will deal more with the chairs,’ he said.