Company steadily paying off debt
The net loss for the Cayman Turtle Farm during government’s 2010/11 financial year was slightly more than $7.9 million, according to statements made public in the Legislative Assembly last week.
The total loss was nearly $400,000 less than the one reported by the Cayman Islands government for the tourism facility during the previous 2009/10 financial year. However, financial statements also indicated that the company’s net operating loss rose by nearly $600,000 for the year.
There were a couple of bright spots for the facility noted in the report as well, Tourism Minister Cline Glidden Jr. told the legislature on Thursday.
First, Mr. Glidden said the tourism attraction located in West Bay saw a significant uptick in earnings, with an overall increase in revenues of 5 per cent.
“Tour revenues increased 10 per cent [during the 2010/11 financial year] despite the decline in cruise tourism,” Mr. Glidden said. “Turtle meat sales increased 13 per cent.”
In addition, the facility’s bond debts shrank to $26.3 million and its long term bank loan amounts dropped to $8.7 million; a total decrease of $3.9 million.
Of the $9.8 million government provided to the Turtle Farm operation during 2010/11, $6.1 million was applied to loan payments, $300,000 to capital projects and $3.4 million to fund operating losses.
The 2010/11 year was also the first full year of Managing Director Tim Adam’s stewardship of the Cayman Turtle Farm. Mr. Adam spoke openly about the farm’s financial difficulties to Cayman Free Press in November.
The farm, which was taken over by the local government in 1983, gets about 230,000 visitors per year. It is the most popular land-based attraction for Cayman Islands tourists and the second most popular spot to visit for all tourists, next to Stingray City in the North Sound.
However, to just break even, Mr. Adam estimates the facility would have to draw twice that number – 460,000 people – about one-quarter of Cayman’s current yearly total visitors, counting both cruise ship and stay-over tourist numbers.
That number is not likely to be reached unless Grand Cayman can install a new cruise ship berthing facility in George Town and/or a berthing facility at the West Bay Public Beach. When the Turtle Farm was expanded in the early part of last decade, the business model called for the construction of a cruise dock at the public beach. “In the current scenario, where we don’t have a cruise dock … we have to bear in mind that about 70 per cent of our revenues come from the cruise business,” Mr. Adam said.
According to unaudited budget records, the Cayman Turtle Farm had a net operating deficit for the 2011/12 financial year of $7.4 million. For the current 2012/13 year, that deficit is projected at nearly $8.1 million. The figures given for the 2010/11 are the audited actual numbers.
Financial records show the overall net loss figures for the Turtle Farm have dropped from about $13 million in 2007/08 to about $8 million in 2010/11.
Personnel costs for the farm operation have dropped by about $1.8 million in the last two years, mainly due to the layoff of 20 staff members at the facility in mid-2010.