Craft markets planned to give traders a home
Vendors selling arts, crafts and jewelry to tourists claim they have been moved off the Royal Watler pier by port officials.
The pier has been used for years by Caymanian entrepreneurs to hawk their wares to hordes of tourists stepping off cruise ships in George Town.
Vendors were previously allowed on the dock to sell crafts, as well as cold drinks and sandwiches, but port officials appear to have clamped down on those without licenses and insurance as part of a wider clean-up of one of the main points of entry to the Cayman Islands.
Tourism bosses say they pose a liability risk to the Port Authority and unless they get trade and business licenses and insurance they can’t be on the dock.
Eugene Christian, who sells black coral jewelry and local paintings, said he and several others had been moved along. Vendors on public beach faced a similar clampdown earlier this year. Mr. Christian claims licenses are not being granted and believes a deliberate effort is being made to marginalize entrepreneurs in business for themselves.
Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell says nothing could be further from the truth. He says government is looking at establishing craft markets across the island, including at public beach, so that vendors have a home.
Tourism councillor Joey Hew said the issue of vendors operating without licenses and insurance had been a problem for some time and was highlighted by the auditor general as a liability issue for the Port Authority. He said those that were willing to cooperate had been helped to get the relevant certification and remained on the dock. Others had declined to co-operate and were no longer on the pier. He said, “They were given notice about this before we even took office. Our goal is not to put them out of business, we are looking at ways to expand the craft markets. We have to do this in a way that is regulated.”
No-one from the Port Authority was available for comment. Robert Hamaty of the Royal Watler Trader’s Association, which represents vendors with a physical presence on the dock, said the clampdown had not affected his members.
He said there had been a general clean-up at the dock, which he said was looking better. Mr. Christian said he had been selling his wares on the dock twice a week for the past three years.
He said around a dozen traders who have stands on the pier, some of whom were previously moved off public beach, were moved along.
“This is my main way to sell what I produce,” said Mr. Christian, who also has a stand in the Reef Resort hotel in the East End two days a week.
“Tourists love to interact with locals and hear about Cayman’s history. I feel like I am doing the island a service,” said Mr. Christian, who added that insurance and licensing were expensive for solo traders with very small profit margins.
Mr. Kirkconnell said the new Port Authority board had a responsibility to ensure everyone working on the dock had the right paperwork. “There is a new board at the Port Authority and they will have been looking into the relevant licenses that are required for vendors to be on Port Authority property as cruise visitors come ashore,” he said. “Remember, there are immigration and security issues. They would have to look at whether they have the relevant insurance.”
Mr. Kirkconnell acknowledged a home needed to be found for vendors. He said tourism councillor Mr. Hew had met some of them and the ministry was working on a solution.
“We are looking at creating craft markets so they can be on public beach. There is already a location in West Bay and we are also looking at Coe Wood beach.
“We are aware that these Caymanian entrepreneurs are an important part of our tourism product. We are looking at how we can facilitate them by providing an area to sell their wares,” the tourism minister said.
Previously, vendors who had been moved off public beaches claimed they were not aware they needed a license to trade on the beach or what the procedure was to get one.
Mr. Hew said the government had concerns about people offering Jet Ski rides or even chopping coconuts on public property without proper licensing and insurance.
“The intention is not to get rid of them. We need to get it better organized and make sure everyone is protected,” Mr. Hew said.