The government is exploring the potential of constructing a cruise dock on Cayman Brac to boost tourism and, by extension, the economy on that island. It might very well be a port we could support.
Attracting large yachts and small cruise ships to the Brac could form the genesis of a sustainable tourism sector on the larger of the Sister Islands, where currently there is an unsustainable imbalance between the public sector (far too much) and the private sector (far too little).
The argument for a Brac cruise port is not “If you build it, they will come.” In reality, much of the “it” (meaning, “infrastructure”) is already in place. The Brac’s roads, water, power, airport, education and telecommunications systems are more than sufficient to accommodate the current population of about 2,000 people, several times over. Even the island’s Faith Hospital has been recently renovated and upgraded. All that’s missing for the Brac to bloom and boom is … well … people.
The Brac is not entirely off the cruise sector’s radar. About four times a year, the island hosts some 170 passengers from the MS Star Flyer, a four-masted tall ship. Next year, 450-passenger cruise ship Seabourn Sojorn will include the Brac among its ports of call.
For travelers seeking a Caribbean destination that is “authentic” and a bit “off the beaten path,” the Brac cannot be beat for small day excursions, such as diving, snorkeling, exploring the Bluff, bird-watching or, of course, relaxing on pristine beaches next to turquoise waters. (The publisher of this newspaper visited the Brac last week, snapping pictures like a tourist. One frame of the beach at the Brac Reef hotel was so stunning, it now adorns his computer as his new “screen saver!”)
Despite our initial enthusiasm, Tourism Minister and Brac MLA Moses Kirkconnell, himself a businessman, knows that practical questions still must be asked and suitably answered if the project is to proceed. Among them:
Would cruise ship lines with appropriately sized ships include the Brac on their itineraries? How much would the port cost to build and operate, and would the funding come exclusively from government or, perhaps, via a public-private sector partnership? Certainly, a persuasive business case would have to be presented.
In recent decades, while Grand Cayman has experienced great growth, the Brac has languished in an economic shadow. Today, at least two-thirds of all paychecks issued on the Brac effectively bear the government’s signature.
The Brac possesses the same fundamental advantages that Grand Cayman does in terms of attracting tourism – white sands, blue seas, low crime and first-world physical infrastructure. Additionally, the Brac enjoys the identical legislative advantages that have enabled the growth of Grand Cayman’s financial services sector.
There is, however, one caveat that must be acknowledged – and accepted – at the outset: With growth comes change.
Many Brackers, understandably, treasure their small, tight-knit community, local traditions and laid-back lifestyle.
At the same time, visitors and new residents will bring their physical presence and leave their imprint on this idyllic island.
If the current residents of the Brac have no desire to see a “New Brac” and do not wish to part ways (not totally, but in part) with the “Old Brac,” then it would be a mistake not only to build a cruise port there, but also to promote new investment and development. We believe, with intelligent planning and consultation, sustainable growth is both possible – and desirable – on the Brac.