Traffic is impacting more than just commuters, it is causing issues for tourists too. Cayman Islands Tourism Association president Theresa Leacock-Broderick talked to the Compass about the problem and some potential solutions.
To what extent do you think traffic congestion is impacting quality of experience for tourists?
The traffic congestion is impacting our visitors to the point where they will comment about it, particularly when the transfer from the airport to Seven Mile Beach takes over an hour. Such an experience upon arrival is not a positive impact in any way.
What do you think can be done to alleviate the problem?
I’m no expert but it appears that a multi-strategy approach must be taken and executed swiftly.
Is this an issue that has come up among CITA membership?
Yes, certainly, it is a topic of discussion among our members. Anyone in the tourism services, including our members, knows that anything that impacts quality of life for residents will ultimately impact the quality of experience for our visitors.
It’s our residents that deliver the service to our visitors. Traffic congestion and time wasted in traffic simply adds to daily stress levels of our personnel. The cost of living, including housing and transportation, is an issue for every industry workforce.
Traffic congestion along with lack of reliable, affordable and convenient public transportation, particularly from the outer districts away from the primary tourism zones, makes it very difficult and at times stressful for our workforce to commute between home and the workplace.
If traffic congestion is throughout the day and not only morning and evening commuting hours, that also means that visitors will choose to not explore Cayman as much and that will reduce visitation at attractions and outer district business establishments.
A large part of what our visitors enjoy is the freedom to move around to explore and discover Cayman on their own.
Is public transport a viable option for tourists in your opinion?
That depends on many factors; public transportation should never be the only option for visitors.
But if it is safe, comfortable, reliable and efficient, it will be used by visitors and residents alike. Many of our visitors staying along the Seven Mile Beach corridor use our buses, particularly the West Bay to George Town route.
They opt to use buses for the convenience when not going very far and also for the opportunity it gives them to interact with residents, which is the kind of experience many tourists seek.
However, many visitors would like to venture further east independently and often don’t because public transportation east is too inconvenient to use, the cost of a taxi is not a value proposition and they don’t wish to be part of a group tour or to drive a rental car.
A lot of new population growth is coming from workers for the hotel/tourism sector. Is there anything being done to prevent all these new workers from needing vehicles, adding to the congestion problem?
The reality is everyone needs to be able to get to and from their workplace and the most affordable homes are far beyond a walkable distance from our workplaces.
The nature of tourism services also calls for shift work, which can make it difficult for people to share rides.
The only prevention to more vehicles on the road, without adding stress to people’s lives, is to provide an alternate to personal vehicles, which calls for a user-friendly mass transportation system and cycle-safe roads.