High hopes for low season

Now that the high season for tourism on the island is drawing to a close, local businesses are anticipating what is to come for the low summer season ahead.

It seems the season was a profitable one with the greatest of hopes for the low season ahead.

Museum gift shop

Tourists are kept entertained by shopkeeper Jamie Azan at the Museum gift shop downtown. Photo: Anna Wootton

Mr. Diego Concha, acting manager of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, which manages the ever-popular tourist destination of Rum Point says it was a very good high season for Rum Point.

‘We were able to service not only local groups but also groups from various hotels,’ he said.

Mr. Concha said it was a really strong economic beginning and he is pleased with the results of this high season’s turnout in terms of tourism at Rum Point.

Another question a few tourists have had concerns about is the ferry that previously operated between the Hyatt hotel and Rum Point. At present, Mr. Concha doesn’t see a need for the ferry, but stated that eventually they will consider the ferry again, most likely next season when he predicts they will experience a stronger flow of people.

When discussing the low season to come, Mr. Concha believes they will do well.

‘We are dealing with a different market but the psychology of the consumer changes.

‘If we don’t have a very scary hurricane season this year we should be fine.’

The newly renovated Turtle Farm at Boatswain’s Beach has been experiencing a surge in visitation numbers.

‘Seventy-five per cent of our customers are cruise-based,’ says director Kenneth Hydes. ‘So when cruises are in we get quite a lot of business – 22 per cent of all visitors to the island come by the Turtle Farm.’ He adds that in general business over the past couple of years was actually quite good.

The Turtle Farm has recently undergone extreme renovations, including a change of location (across the road from its previous site). This change in appearance presented the public with a refreshed product. ‘It gave people something different to see,’ says Mr. Hydes.

And with the new ice cream shop having opened, Mr. Hydes only sees good things in store.

‘Diversity of product is beneficial for any business. Not just the ice cream store, but the Cracked Conch restaurant that’s opening up again, DiveTech, and some other attractions that will appear in the future all help.

‘Overall we have 18 kiosks leased out by individual businesses. If you offer people more than one option, you increase your opportunities as a business.’

Mr. Hydes also remains positive about the upcoming low season.

‘Well, we’ve certainly made valid attempts to plan for it and the cruise ships will still come,’ he said.

At Pampered Ponies, a horse-riding school and service that has been operated by Ms Jennifer Catt in West Bay for the past 11 years, this tone of optimism continues.

‘We’ve been doing really well. We had a good year,’ she said. ‘It’s starting to slow down now but I have high hopes.’

Ms Catt said that in the low season locals ride with them, including many children who have more time to ride during the summer.

‘We also offer a discount to tourists in the summer, which is more incentive for people to come out and ride. We’re also involved in programmes with the Department of Tourism, which absolutely help us.’ However, should the numbers decrease more than expected during the low season, Ms Catt is not too worried: ‘The horses don’t mind a bit of a break.’

The Butterfly Farm is still fluttering on.

Like most businesses on the island, this attraction also felt the post-Ivan dip in tourism. However, says employee Joanna Oakes, business this past season has gone really well. ‘The farm is optimistic for the upcoming low season’, she said.

The Butterfly Farm relies on both cruise passengers and stay-over tourists and works with businesses to encourage the maximum number of visits possible.

‘We work with the Ritz-Carlton, offering tours with them. We work with cruise ships, with Nautilus and the Turtle Farm. These programmes are great because they provide variation for tourists, as they get to try a few different activities on one tour,’ she said.

The fact that hotel occupancy is better this season than the previous post-Ivan season when the island was in recovery bodes well for the low season ahead.

‘The garden has also grown back a lot (since Ivan),’ said Ms Oakes. The garden was the main aspect of the farm affected by Hurricane Ivan. The growth helps not only the tourists, but the butterflies too, which feed on the flowers. With the lush landscape grown back, The Butterfly Farm is looking forward to embracing a prosperous low season.

The Cayman Islands National Museum is under renovation. However, the gift shop has remained open for purchasing such souvenirs as Cayman flags, paintings and postcards and other treasures for tourists to remember the islands by. However, the Museum gift shop has a less positive tale to tell of its post-Ivan seasons, though shopkeeper Jamie Azan believes it to be the result of a different cause.

‘Since 9-11, we’ve never really got back the amount of tourists we had before’, she said. ‘However, there have been quite a few tourists in this season. They are supporting us but are disappointed that the Museum is closed.’

Perhaps the reason for this period of slower business for the gift store is the delay in museum renovations – it has been nearly two years since Hurricane Ivan and the Museum still remains closed.

Many tourists have returned during the past two years and have been surprised to find it still closed.

However, the gift shop remains open long hours; all day Monday to Friday and from 10am-2pm Saturday.

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