Kiosk tenants at the Royal Watler cruise terminal are worried that the Southern gated entrance will close again following it being reopened recently.
Closing the gate, which is near the kiosks, locks off all passers-by on the street to the kiosks and closes off traffic to them from the cruise ships, say kiosk tenants.
However, they say the closure of the gate has only served to affect the smaller businesses occupying the kiosks while enhancing traffic to the larger businesses at the main entrance, a walkway underneath the main retail building.
‘If the gate closes permanently the small business owners in the kiosks will be pushed down and put out of business,’ said kiosk tenant John Schirn.
The Southern gate, which is a supplementary entrance from the street, was always open from the time the facility opened for business, but on 16 January, it was closed by the Port Authority.
However, following letters of complaint from the kiosk tenants to the Port Authority that their revenue was seriously impacted, the gate was reopened.
Speaking on behalf of the kiosk tenants Ms Maria Swing along with Mr. Schirn, told the Caymanian Compass that they are now looking for an assurance from the Port Authority that the gate will remain open during their business hours.
‘Having two access points is a much more equitable solution than just one where the traffic is diverted to the big shops,’ said the kiosk representatives. ‘Closing the gates is not a solution. Leave the gates open to encourage more shoppers into the plaza,’ they said.
Mr. Schirn was a first tenant and he said he had been assured then the gate would always be open.
‘We were not under any understanding that they [the gates] were going be closed for an extended time,’ said Ms Swing.
But some progress is being made. A committee was formed in July to help improve the flow of traffic and help the retailers deal with issues with the Port Authority such as placing strategic signs within the cruise terminal area to direct passengers to stores, along with promotional materials in order to help business.
But Ms Swing noted, ‘There is no consensus on the closure of the gate on this committee.’
She explained that when the gate was closed people coming off the cruise ships would see that they could not access the street down that side and so they would all go the other way toward the main entrance, totally bypassing the kiosks. Also, the only street access was from the main entrance -the opposite side of the terminal from where the kiosks are.
While the main retail shops have road frontage and very easy access to walk-by shoppers in George Town, the kiosks are more in the interior of the cruise terminal.
‘Although the gate is open we get very few people coming in from the road, but to close the gate compounds the problem because our cruise passenger sales dropped significantly when it was closed,’ they said.
One tenant vacated a kiosk because of a lack of business, they noted.
‘The small businesses are really feeling it when the gate is closed,’ said Ms Swing. ‘It had such a big impact on us the first time we don’t want it to happen again,’ she said.
The kiosk tenants also believe the Southern gate needs to remain open for issues such as safety and crowd dispersion.
‘If you’re piling 1,000 tourists out on to that road in that particular spot from one exit then they can’t disperse, whereas if they’re coming out into two separate areas there’s more discretion and it’s a lot safer,’ said Mr. Schirn.