Any Public Beach vendors who remain in the Seven Mile Beach corridor past the end of this month will have undergone customer service training, participated in government inspections and will have to adhere to a dress code, according to government officials.
As part of an agreement to license Public Beach vendors, and to prevent what nearby residents have described as a “carnival atmosphere” from taking over the beach, about 20 vendors underwent “PRIDE” customer service training this month, as well as “know your islands” heritage and culture training.
In addition, all water-sports operators will have to pass swimming and CPR/rescue tests to become licensed, according to documents obtained by the Cayman Compass earlier this month. There will also be additional health inspection requirements for anyone serving food in the area.
Ministry of Tourism Deputy Chief Officer Dalton Watler said the government aims to have all vendors who wish to continue operating on the Public Beach licensed by the end of July. However, in order to do so, they must abide by a lengthy code of conduct and agree to be inspected by the Department of Tourism before continuing with business, he said. Once those conditions are met, the vendors will be licensed by the Department of Commerce and Investment.
According to the proposed Code of Conduct set out for the vendors, all those who wish to continue operating must obtain a trade and business license, including sole proprietors as well as vendors operating as a registered company. Sole traders must submit documentation that includes planning approval, pension and health plans and a police clearance certificate.
Registered companies must provide all of the above information, as well as proof of Caymanian status, a register of company directors, articles of association and incorporation and lists of directors and shareholders.
In the past, it was not known whether vendors were paying pension or healthcare costs because none was legally licensed. The new proposed operating code should resolve that problem, Department of Commerce and Investment Director Ryan Rajkumarsingh said.
Mr. Watler said he expects that the licensing and inspection process will eliminate some vendors, but, in the end, those who wish to legitimately operate on Public Beach will be able to do so.
The proposed code of conduct, which covers three pages in draft documents seen by the Compass, sets out standards of behavior for the vendors, both on Public Beach at Seven Mile Beach and at West Bay Public Beach.
“They are representatives of the Cayman Islands and its tourism industry and vendors are expected, at all times, to conduct themselves and their operations in a manner consistent with that role,” the draft code of conduct states. “Use of profanity or abuse or threatening language or violent or threatening behavior to, or in the presence of, visitors will be regarded as serious misconduct.”
Under the proposed deal, licensed vendors will be assigned a kiosk provided by government for a rental fee. The kiosk location has not been determined, but George Town MLA Joey Hew, who has been working on the deal with the vendors as Tourism Ministry councilor, said it would be kept back from the beachfront.
Currently, vendors are placing their businesses, rental beach chairs, rental floatation devices, water craft and food stalls wherever it suits them. None of the beach vendors have been granted permission by Cabinet to operate on Crown land. If they meet the government’s operating terms, permission would be granted, officials said.
Under the terms of the licenses, vendors are restricted to operate in the kiosk they have rented and are not to “engage in haggling” or “high pressure” sales techniques with tourists or residents.
The government’s Parks and Recreation Unit is to be contacted in the event of any dispute between a beach vendor and a customer.
In addition, the proposed code of conduct sets forth a dress code for the vendors: “Vendors are to wear … any outfit/color that may be approved from time to time by the Ministry of Tourism, and vendors are responsible for the purchase of the outfit.
“Vendors are expected to wear smart, appropriate, clean and presentable outfit[s] which [are] commensurate with their standing.”
The proposal for vendor licensing in the designated kiosk operating area is the result of negotiations with beach vendors over the past several months, following residents’ complaints regarding the safety and tranquillity of Seven Mile Beach.
In May, and again in June, warning citations were handed out to more than a dozen vendors along Seven Mile and West Bay Public Beaches as the Department of Commerce and Investment responded to long-standing complaints about unlicensed or even dangerous activities in the popular tourist area. The department’s enforcement effort was suspended for one month in attempts to bring the beach vendors in line with new licensing requirements, the government confirmed.
Several vendors contacted in recent weeks by the Compass have generally supported the beach vendor regulations, but there are some concerns as well.
“We will still make money, but it will be slower,” said George Brooks, who has been working on the beach for the last six years. “Overall [regulating the vendors] is a good thing though.”
Cayman Compass journalist Matt Lamers contributed to this report.