Clifford: Boatswain’s aid not permanent

Cayman Islands Tourism Minister Charles Clifford warned the Legislative Assembly Friday that government-supported funding for the Boatswain’s Beach project in West Bay won’t go on forever.

‘What we’re not going to do is simply accept…this is another agency that we’re going to subsidise indefinitely,’ Mr. Clifford said in his debate on the 2007-08 budget.

While assuring LA members that government would not abandon Boatswain’s Beach, Mr. Clifford said he didn’t want aid for the project to continue beyond the ‘short term, and maybe medium term.’

Opposition MLA Cline Glidden Jr. said earlier in the week that if Boatswain’s Beach is under-performing the People’s Progressive Movement government has only itself to blame.

‘We tried to warn them,’ Mr. Glidden said.

Earlier this year the park opened several new attractions including a snorkel lagoon, a pool, a predator tank which now has about 10 sharks, and Cayman Street, which displays some old-time houses and island relics.

‘Without a doubt, (it’s) a nice attraction,’ said Mr. Clifford. ‘The country should be proud of the product we have there.’

Despite all the new draws at Boatswain’s, Mr. Glidden said it’s been a problem getting tourists there in sufficient numbers to enjoy them.

‘The PPM was warned about the effect of not going through with the West Bay dock on Boatswain’s Beach,’ he said. ‘And now we hear cries that it’s not getting enough people.’

Mr. Clifford said that statement was a misrepresentation of the facts.

‘The problem is not the number of visitors,’ he said. ‘(The numbers are) not far off what the business plan indicated.’

Mr. Clifford also said proposals for a dock in West Bay for cruise ship passengers are still opposed by his Ministry. He said the dock would be a ‘logistical nightmare.’

The Minister said the park has encountered several difficulties, not least of which was that Hurricane Ivan in 2004 delayed its opening. Mr. Clifford also said staff members were recruited to work at Boatswain’s before they were needed.

The most critical issue, according to Mr. Clifford, is that assumptions made in the facility’s initial business plan were not correct.

It was first envisioned that all adult visitors would pay $60 to enter Boatswain’s Beach, while children’s tickets would cost $30.

‘It certainly wasn’t practical,’ Mr. Clifford said.

The price structure at Boatswain’s was changed, and now varying sets of fees are charged to visitors depending on when they go and what sections of the park they want to visit. A tourist wanting full access during a weekday would pay US$75. A resident pays CI$10 on the weekend for the same access.

In 2006, government approved a US$8.8 million loan guarantee for Boatswain’s Beach, which was previously known as the Cayman Turtle Farm.

Mr. Clifford said shortly after the loan was green-lighted that he believed using a small coalition of local contractors to redevelop the Turtle Farm increased the cost of the US$56 million facility (Caymanian Compass, 11 October, 2006)

The Boatswain’s Beach Board of Directors is currently reviewing both the accounting and management structure at the park. Mr. Clifford said part of its job will be to find people ‘with the right skills’ to manage the operation effectively.

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