Plans to station a permanent “tourism pontoon” close to Stingray City Sandbar in the North Sound are being reviewed by government.
Marineland Tours has submitted a coastal works application for a multi-deck platform featuring a water slide, underwater observatory, scuba diving center and sundeck.
Documents submitted with the application indicate the pontoon, with a main deck of 150 feet by 50 feet, would be modeled on similar structures in Australia.
The concept is a first for Cayman, and the company in its application urges government to make “hard decisions” now to ensure the long-term sustainability of the islands’ tourism industry.
It suggests the pontoon would be a new attraction for Cayman and would drive visitation to the island, as well as offering something different to a new generation of tourists.
It adds that the tourism industry needs to look at new opportunities to diversify amid competition from new destinations for younger travelers.
“Some visitors may return year after year, suggesting little need to change things. The danger is that, as this group ages, there will be no one to take its place. Natural successors have become used to taking holidays elsewhere based on higher expectations,” the company, which is owned by the Eldemire family, stated in the application.
The pontoon would be built to withstand hurricanes and could also be used for interactive education and as a base for research, according to the application.
Docking at the site would be limited to Marineland’s boats. Other activities planned from the platform include semi-submersible tours and wildlife viewing.
The application states, “The outer reef on the North Sound offers beautiful coral and fish viewing. Since the proponents already operate trips in this area, extending opportunities to include a tourism pontoon destination seemed a feasible option.”
A separate document, submitted with the application, highlights the proliferation of such pontoons in Australia.
There are multiple structures in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park which attract tourists for day trips to the outer reefs. Some are marketed as miniature floating islands featuring a host of amenities, including cafes and sleeping facilities.
The report indicates that design and regulatory systems in Australia have been developed to ensure minimal impact on the reef and could be transplanted to Cayman for the management of this project. The exact location of the site is not included in the paperwork, with the proponent indicating it would work with Department of Environment experts to select the most appropriate spot if the application is approved.
The document indicates it would likely be in shallow water close to the reef and close to Stingray City Sandbar.
Coastal Works Applications are decided by Cabinet, with input from various agencies, including the Department of Environment.
Curtis Eldemire, CEO of Marineland, said he had no comment to make at this stage, when contacted by the Cayman Compass.