The National Trust has warned the Cayman Islands could suffer significant “reputational damage” as a tourist destination if it moves forward with plans for new cruise piers in George Town harbor.
The Trust, in a statement released Wednesday, also questioned the economic benefits of the proposed facility.
“The Trust believes that there is room to question whether the investment in the Cruise Berthing Facility will yield the substantial improvement to the economy predicted by the Outline Business Case as the negative economic and environmental consequences are far reaching and in many cases irreversible,” notes the statement released by Christina Pineda, executive director of the Trust.
It adds, “Due consideration should be given to the reputational damage that may be caused to the Cayman Islands brand as a tourist destination.
“There has been a significantly negative reaction from the local residents as well as the international media to the proposed Cruise Berthing Facility and the environmental damage it will cause if implemented.”
The statement goes on to question the basis for the judgments in the Outline Business Case about the economic impact of the project.
“There is a significant lack of research and data to support the assumptions in the Outline Business Case, particularly with respect to direct passenger surveys and research on spending increase assumptions as well as loss of business if the Cruise Berthing facility is not constructed.”
The draft Outline Business Case, produced by PwC, suggested the project could create around 1,000 jobs and inject $250 million into the island’s economy over a 20-year-period. That estimate was based on an anticipated decline in arrivals of 1 percent per year, bottoming out at 1 million passengers if no action was taken, compared with a 1 percent annual increase up to a maximum of 2.3 million passengers if the new piers are built.
PwC’s final draft of the business case, factoring in the findings of the environmental impact assessment, including financial losses to water sports businesses in the capital, has been released to government members but not yet to the public.
The National Trust also queried whether cruise industry officials had ever said Cayman would be dropped as a destination if berthing facilities were not built.
Describing mitigation methods, such as coral relocation, as costly and complicated with limited chance of success, the statement adds, “The possible loss of this coral as well as the loss of or damage to the wreck of the Balboa, a victim of the 1932 hurricane and an irreplaceable part of Cayman’s history and heritage, is of particular concern to the Trust.”
It also warns that the scope and cost of upgrades to George Town’s infrastructure have not been adequately assessed.