The Ministry and Department of Tourism have initiated a ‘Go East’ plan to develop the tourism product of the Eastern Districts.
Some residents of those districts might see this plan as a business opportunity, while others might see it as a threat to their peaceful way of life. Both views are probably right.
Given what has occurred because of development to George Town and Seven Mile Beach, residents have a right to be worried – or hopeful – that development in the Eastern Districts could affect their lives just as dramatically.
It is therefore important that the Government approach this plan with the right balance of expanding Grand Cayman’s tourism area and controlling the face and pace of development so as not to destroy what makes the Eastern Districts uniquely Cayman.
Despite years of massive development in the west, the Eastern Districts have maintained their Cayman identities. It should come as no surprise that many Caymanians who live in the George Town area like to get away to the Eastern Districts for a weekend or just a Sunday afternoon. Some George Towners have even moved east, which in some ways, is like moving back in time.
Some tourists appreciate the Eastern Districts for the same reasons Caymanians do.
In discussing the Go East plan with residents of the Eastern Districts, Minister of Tourism Charles Clifford said that tourism development does not necessarily mean bricks and mortar. Instead, he advocates a development of resources that does not destroy the essence of what makes the Eastern Districts special, but allows for visitors to share in the beauty of those areas.
That thinking, while responsible, might prove easier said than done.
Already commercial development is expanding along the Queen’s Highway, with a new shopping centre opening across from Morritt’s, and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel also planned for the vicinity.
One hindrance to eastern development is the traffic. With the Eastern District commute to or from town taking as long a one and a half hours, developers might think twice before venturing east.
However, the government has plans to build a limited access ‘highway’ through Grand Cayman’s interior, all the way to the Morritt’s area.
Once that road is completed it may be very difficult to curtail rapid development of the East End area, complete with fast food restaurants, duty free stores and shopping plazas.
Mr. Clifford said Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts has put the Development Plan on the fast track, which is good; it is a very wise idea to make sure the development plan goes east before the developers do.