It seems the Cayman Turtle Centre has adopted the old adage, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”
The tourism attraction in West Bay has signed contracts this year with a cruise line to bring guests in for a “beach break” seashore excursion at West Bay Public Beach along North West Point Road. The location, just south of the Turtle Centre property, is a few miles north of where private sector beach vendors have set up on the main Seven Mile Public Beach, offering largely the same service.
Beach chairs were put out Wednesday by Turtle Centre staff to accommodate cruisers who wanted to relax in the picturesque area, which looks back toward George Town harbor and Seven Mile Beach.
“We hope this will demonstrate a practical example for how vendors at all public beaches can be well organized and can conduct their business in a way that delivers an excellent guest experience,” said Turtle Centre Managing Director Tim Adam. “By doing so, everyone involved is better off.”
The private vendors on Public Beach have been at it for years with varying levels of support, as well as resistance, from local residents and government. A compromise was worked out early last year, resulting in a new law requiring the registration and oversight of those businesses.
Mr. Adam said Friday that the centre – which is government supported and overseen by the Ministry of Tourism – is providing the beach chairs and other amenities to guests, as well as ensuring they are safe with both lifeguards and security guards on location.
Mr. Adam said the beach chairs and other items would not be left on the public beach area, but were to be collected by Turtle Centre staff once the tourists depart. Turtle Centre employees were seen loading the chairs into a truck Wednesday afternoon and taking them away.
Mr. Adam said a number of other guest beach visits are scheduled for the 2018 tourism season.
“The cruise line is delighted to be able to have this option available to offer this to their guests,” Mr. Adam said. “This new shore excursion benefits the island and its tourism economy as a whole, giving guests another reason to come ashore and visit our island while their ship is in port here. The commercial arrangement benefits the centre as well as its staff, its security and transport providers, potentially other vendors in the vicinity and in turn their employees.”
The West Bay Public Beach operation is not just to the benefit of the Turtle Centre, Mr. Adam said. The tourism attraction will add other local vendors to the site, some of whom are already there, selling trinkets or barbecue. Mr. Adam said the new attraction should add to employment and economic opportunity in the center’s “home base” of West Bay.
He also said the new tourism offering has received the full support of the Tourism Ministry and Cabinet members, as well as a number of West Bayers.
“Many people in the neighborhood and in the community have come up to Raymond [Hydes, the center’s chief sales officer] or me … to express their encouragement and appreciation for bringing this fresh new initiative to West Bay,” Mr. Adam said.