EDITORIAL – Celebrating the tourism ‘boomlet’ on the Brac

Even as the opposition raised its collective voice last week calling for a countrywide referendum on the George Town harbor cruise pier project, Cayman Brac announced some good cruise news of its own.

The elegant Seabourn Sojourn is expected to call on the Sister Island beginning in November next year, giving the cruise line’s upscale travelers a taste of Caymankind – and giving us a welcome boost to tourism on the Brac.

The Seabourn Cruise Lines’ 2019 itinerary will include four visits to Cayman Brac, offering hundreds of passengers a chance to dive or snorkel, explore the Bluff, view rare and beautiful species of birds and soak up a bit of Cayman culture.

The four scheduled visits may not sound like much to folks accustomed to dodging thousands of bargain-hunting, beach-seeking cruise-shippers in downtown George Town, but it is welcome news to the Brac – doubling the annual number of cruise ship visits there. (Seabourn’s Sojourn has a capacity of 450 passengers.)

As record crowds continue to disembark from tenders in George Town harbor, Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell told the Compass his ministry has been working to bring smaller vessels to Cayman Brac. He said the Seabourn announcement is evidence that cruise tourism is a viable product for the Brac. (For several years now, the island has been hosting the MS Star Flyer and its 170-or-so passengers four times annually.)

We think the minister is on to something. With hotel accommodations on the Brac being limited – aggravated by the closing of the 31-room Alexander Hotel in 2014 – small cruise ships provide what may be an ideal “workaround.” Passengers will arrive in prime-time daylight hours, experience the amenities and pleasures that only a small tropical venue can provide, and then be merrily on their nautical way.

We do not know how many other small ships or tall ships might be candidates to visit our Sister Islands, but now that the highly regarded Seabourn Sojourn is joining the MS Star Flyer, perhaps a “follow the leader” syndrome will be set in motion.

In any event, the announcement of the Seabourn Sojourn’s impending visits is a positive development by any measure and one for which Minister Kirkconnell and his ministry deserve recognition. As one would expect from an elected member, Mr. Kirkconnell never misses an opportunity to showcase his district and advocate on behalf of his constituents.

Nevertheless, economic activity on the Brac has remained stubbornly difficult to initiate – and sustain. At least two-thirds (and we suspect more) of all employees on the Brac are drawing their paychecks from government – far more than is ideal, or even sustainable, in the long term. A much greater private sector presence is woefully needed. But that is a subject for another day …. For now, let us remind our readers that next month the Legislative Assembly will be convening on the Brac to conduct its official affairs.

It’s a good opportunity for our legislators, by their presence, to put our Sister Islands in the spotlight and an ideal time for those of us who live on the “big island” to pay a visit. Certainly, we at the Compass are planning to do just that.