$1 million budgeted for procurement, environmental impact assessment
New cruise berthing facilities and an upgrade of Owen Roberts International Airport in Grand Cayman are crucial to the future of tourism in the Cayman Islands, Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said in his budget address.
An additional $1 million has been allocated toward the cruise project this year, with the funds going toward managing the procurement process for the multimillion dollar project and conducting an environmental impact assessment.
Mr. Kirkconnell, speaking to the Caymanian Compass following his speech, said a public-private partnership on this scale would be a first for Cayman and it was necessary to spend money up front to ensure it went smoothly.
He said spending money on engineers and legal representation now could save money later on, citing the money wasted on previous pier projects as a cautionary tale.
“We’ve seen what has gone on over the past eight years,” he said.
A business case outlining the arguments for or against building new piers in George Town harbor has already been completed by consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers and will go to Cabinet on Tuesday.
Few dispute the need for new cruise berthing facilities in Grand Cayman and the process of producing a business case was seen by some as a formality, necessary only to comply with the U.K.’s new ground rules on financing major projects.
Mr. Kirkconnell, in his budget speech, said temporary measures had been put in place to improve the visitor experience at the Royal Watler dock ahead of expected record-breaking cruise arrivals during the next two years.
But he warned the rise in visitors could not be sustained over time unless a new dock was built.
“If the Cayman Islands do nothing to address the absence of cruise berthing facilities, we will, over time, lose our cruise business completely,” he said.
Tourism chiefs also hope to proceed toward the production of a business case for the expansion of Owen Roberts International Airport in the coming year.
Mr. Kirkconnell outlined the importance of both projects in his budget speech in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday.
He said, “We are at a point with stay-over arrivals where we face another significant guest comfort problem. Simply put, we are bringing in more people than the current facility can cope with during peak travel times. I am sure that anyone who has recently traveled on the weekend will have witnessed that the high concentration of passengers at the airport, is more than the infrastructure can properly manage.”
He said “short-term” measures, including covering walkways and providing entertainment and refreshments to passengers during peak periods, would be put in place.
He added, “The medium-term goal is to redevelop the airport and increase its footprint so that it can comfortably accommodate much higher passenger quotas in the departure and arrival areas in the peak periods.”