Members of the East End Go East Committee are concerned about the impact a proposed extra 250-plus tourist beds will have on the tranquil district.
Speaking at the ninth Annual Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism in a presentation on the role of the East End Committee in the Go East Project, Committee Chairman Mervyn Conolly said there are 250 beds available to tourists in East End.
A five star hotel with 114 beds (Mandarin Oriental), another five star resort with 120 beds and a green eco dive lodge with 22 beds are proposed and would mean another 250 beds in the district.
‘Now the problem we have to face, our population is approximately 2,000, and according to what I understand from the experts in the tourist field it takes approximately 3.5 persons to service one bed. So if you do the math you can see the impact this could potentially have on us,’ Mr. Conolly said.
‘We’re not against development and growth but we’ve got to be concerned when people have to possibly import labour to service these types of facilities.’
He said committee members endorse the green eco lodge. They have met with the developer who will use solar power, have a recycling programme and involve the community of East End from the start of construction.
‘We fully support that facility. The other two we have a question mark and that is to be debated,’ he said.
Mr. Conolly emphasised that the East End Go East Committee has a firm commitment and is passionate about what happens in the district, wanting to see the uniqueness and tranquillity of the district preserved through its development.
‘It is clear that when you compare it to the western part of the island there are no hotels, fast food restaurants and we’re hoping to not have too much of them coming our way,’ Mr. Connolly said.
With regard to planning members want phased development.
‘We are very concerned about any major project that would be coming to East End. We want to know where it’s going to be located, how big it is, what it involves. We want to know about the design of the project. We want to make sure that certainly it is not a seven storey building. We are trying to lobby the Minister, the government as a whole, with regards to any high rise building coming to East End.’
The vision of the committee is to share the prosperity and economic development of East End while maintaining social harmony and protecting the environment, preserving the culture, charm tranquillity and uniqueness of East End.
‘We want it (development) to happen at a pace that it can be absorbed by our community and happen in such a way that whatever development goes on that it is a benefit for the residents of East End.’
Opportunities for new businesses in the area, both to serve tourists and the community include day-care services and services for children and senior citizens, reliable transportation, entertainment facilities and small tourist accommodations.
‘It is not about the big hotels and capital projects. That is not what we’re looking for,’ Mr. Conolly said. ‘We’re really looking for the community tourism concept. We can have people coming in and visiting our part of the island, enjoying our sites and food and attractions and then certainly they can go back to the Seven Mile Strip or wherever else they came from. That’s what we’re looking for.’
Committee members said they would like to see some government services moved closer to the eastern districts including a Department of Tourism office.
They would also like government to make small loans available, duty concessions for importation of items, and have planning regulations updated to encourage small home businesses.
They have worked with government to identify and protect public beach access in the area.
‘We want to make sure that those public beach accesses are retained in the district of East End,’ he said.
The pooling of resources and establishment of a business co-operative would also be welcomed.
The Spotts Dock, if it could be developed, would be an opportunity for cruise ships to call there and get cruise passengers out to the Eastern districts from there, Mr. Conolly said.
Good hard facts and evidence to base decisions on will be gained by household surveys being done.
The committee fully believes it can make a difference to what happens in East End district in regards to the economic growth being in balance with the environment, heritage, culture and social aspects of the district.
Deputy Director International Marketing with the Department of Tourism Shomari Scott said one way to ensure development is managed in a sustainable manner is to ensure correct guidelines are in place before development begins. A lot can be learned from Cayman’s Caribbean neighbours on solutions and problems they have encountered in the quest for sustainable development.
Mr. Scott said the NTMP and Go East policy will have a set framework for development of tourism moving forward.
Concern was expressed from the floor that environmental legislation in the Cayman Islands is very poor relating to environmental impact assessments and protection of mangrove wetlands, with the question, ‘how can development be managed?’
Mr. Conolly said this is a concern, but both Ministers Charles Clifford and Arden McLean have been approached on this and committee members believe they have some leverage on this issue. He added that the need to protect the environment is something everyone needs to be more vocal about so leaders are pushed to do the right thing.
The National Conservation Legislation is in draft form, having lain dormant for the past decade. This new legislation provides the framework for environmental impact assessments, in order to ensure that environmental consequences are examined as part of the decision making process. It also provides mechanisms for the nomination, designation and management of protected areas and species
Mr. Clifford recently said he plans to present the Green Bill for debate during this coming September’s meeting of the Legislative Assembly.