While the Cayman 2.0 series has thus far been looking at the ideas and strategies that could make the country a better place, we changed things up for December. We’re highlighting 21 people who could turn some of those ideas into reality – or at least get the ball rolling – over the next calendar year.
If there’s anything Jason Washington has learned from 25 years in the dive industry, it’s that flexibility is a must.
So when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the government to close the borders which all but shut down the dive industry – as had happened in 2004 following Hurricane Ivan – Washington knew it was time to pivot.
“We’ve really been forced to think outside the box during this lockdown,” Washington said. “To be honest with you, I don’t know if we’ll completely shift back into the ways of old when we do reopen. I think what we’re gonna have to do is… diversify. And by that, I mean we’re not going to be able to just offer the same two-tank certified tours that everyone else is offering.”
For Washington, a renowned underwater photographer, that means focussing on products that perhaps used to be considered ancillary. He’s put time and energy into developing and marketing a retail arm to sell his photography. He’s offering specialised dives, like excursions specifically aimed at those interested in underwater photography to develop their skills. He’s also looking outside of Cayman to supplement traditional revenue sources that are now gone due to a lack of visitors.
“I had been in the underwater photography side of the game that wasn’t specific to Grand Cayman; it’s off island,” he said. “I represent a few different brands. I represent Cressi; they make scuba gear. During lockdown, I picked up a sponsorship from a French watch company YEMA, which has been a game changer for me; it actually brings money in the door. And I’m shooting content for a company called Insta 360, which makes a little 360 [degree] action camera that goes head-to-head with the GoPro series. So those are the avenues that I’ve started to explore during lockdown.”
21 people in 2021
• James Whittaker
• Rachel Smyth
• Andre Gooden
• Adam Sax
• Marc Langevin
• Louisa Sax
• Dr. Marc Lockhart
• Lauren Nelson
• Jordan Stubblefield
• Brandon Caruana
• Josephine Horwitz
• Juliet Austin
• Stacy McAfee
• Blair Lilford
• Mike Mannisto
• Sergio Coni
He says it’s these types of opportunities that he believes fellow dive operations should explore in order to gain financial security.
“When we do reopen, the tap is going to turn on slowly,” Washington said. “If we’re not setting ourselves apart from everyone else, we’re going to be… left on the sidelines.
“We’re going to be a lot more into free-diving certifications, spearfishing lionfish, a few different things here and there that others aren’t offering. The photography side of it is always going to be there. We’re gonna have to change it up a little bit to push into 2021 with some level of success.”