Optimism at Boatswain’s Beach as visitor numbers increase

Boatswain’s Beach saw a modest
increase in visitors and a significant increase in revenue in the 11-month
period ending in April compared to the same period a year earlier.

Comparing the period of June 2008
to April 2009 with that between June 2009 and April 2010, there was an increase
in total tours of 3,447, or 2 per cent. Revenue increased in the same period by
CI$249,452, or 9 per cent, to $2.9 million.

Chairman of the Board Kenneth Hydes
said that this result was attributable to efforts at managerial, governmental
and board level to engage cruise lines in constructive discussion.

“The dialogue has been directly
exploring ways in which we can make the park more acceptable to a broader base
of cruise customer,” he said.

“Everything’s on the table; it’s
very much the case that a customer from two different cruise lines may be
looking for two different things. One may be more appreciative of the cultural
aspects of the park and other groups may be more attracted to the more fun
aspects of it,” he explained.

Mr. Hydes noted that the creation
of special packages that might include different food and beverage components
had been well-received as the facility’s strategy to tailor-make options at the
park to fit in with expectations of cruise lines and their customers.

“The board and management, with the
support of the primary shareholder, the government, is looking to continue to
build on that dialogue and look to improve numbers across the sectors,
including stay-over,” he continued.

The chairman said that there was
also a strategy to engage local residents and that such innovations as online
purchasing had also shown an increase in booking numbers.

A West Bay boom

Mr. Hyde thinks the West Bay
peninsula, and in particular the Northwest Point area, could see an upsurge in
visitors if its attractions and restaurants work together to make the area a
centre for tourism.

He said that the growing amount of
attractions in the area could push the area higher in the minds of tourists and
that working together was key.

“I think we now have to be very
creative and engage other industry sectors. The whole area here with Boatswain’s
Beach, Cayman Turtle Farm, Dolphin Discovery, Cracked Conch, the [Cayman] Motor
Museum, Tortuga Rum Company and so on has almost become a little destination
within itself,” he said. “Hell and other activities in the West Bay peninsula
are also very close and there’s an opportunity to repackage stuff and look at
putting some new products out there.

“It’s on the way up. Without
cannibalising other people’s market share, there are ongoing discussions
between the Turtle Farm and other parties in the area as to how we can best
make this area the number-one choice for land-based activities.  [Visitors could potentially] go to
Boatswain’s Beach, spend the morning there, have lunch at Cracked Conch and
maybe visit the car museum in the afternoon. It’s a really nice combination,
and there are other combinations [of activities] that could be worked out,” Mr.
Hydes said.

Job cuts

The beleaguered Boatswain’s Beach
facility has undertaken a series of cuts this year, including the loss of 21
jobs and other cost-saving measures. The Turtle Farm has also had to increase
the price of turtle meat.

“There’s been a lot of coverage of
the fact that we’ve made a number of very difficult decisions on the
expenditure side, including the loss of some of our staff,” he said. “We feel
we’ve done a very good job in containing the expenditure and trying to do that,
but the only way the farm is to ever turn the corner fully is through
increasing the revenue base – whether it’s through special events, food and
beverage offerings or increasing our numbers of arrivals at the door.

“In a few weeks the board, the
management and other active participants in the farm will be holding a series
of meetings to look at exactly how best we can increase our revenue base,” he
said.

The chairman said that the board
was looking to build on this new approach looking forward, but he warned that
it would not be an instant fix.

“Is it going to make the farm
profitable in one year? Absolutely not; but our desire is to continually bring
down the dependency upon the main shareholder [the Cayman Islands Government]
and by default the people of the Cayman Islands,” he concluded.

Since 2004 the facility has
received CI$20 million in government subsidy, not including loans.

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