Opinion: Mass tourism and population growth have hidden costs

Readers are cautioned that the OP-eds do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of Loop Cayman.

by “Citizen concerned”


Tourism is one of the main financial pillars of the Cayman Islands. It provides jobs, keeps Seven-Mile Beach restaurants and bars busy, and puts money in the pockets of hard-working taxi drivers and other tour operators. Income notwithstanding, I think there are hidden costs of tourism that can impact the environment and infrastructure.

The first tourist attraction I think of when the environment is mentioned is Stingray City. COVID-19 has now given stakeholders a moment to pause and consider what is happening to stingrays and how to ensure their well-being. It doesn’t have to be just a moment of thought. A long-term action plan must be implemented.

Without a long-term plan for Stingray City, tourists will be greeted en masse and Stingray City will be crowded again. From a layman’s point of view, my opinion is that such overcrowding is not good for stingrays or their home. I think an appropriate course of action would be to change the laws that govern water activities to restrict the number of boats or guests inhabiting the sandbank at any given time.

Congestion is also a problem closer to the mainland. For example, a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic, parts of Seven-Mile Beach looked like a cricket pitch with hundreds of tourists crammed into small spots on the beach. The beach experience also changed, turning into a market for vendors where the focus was on selling beach chairs and food rather than ensuring a unique and enjoyable tourist experience.

In addition to the overloading of natural habitat, overwhelming pressure is also exerted on infrastructure, especially in the case of traffic. This was noticeable when large cruise ships came and thousands of visitors descended on George Town, complicating the existing traffic problem.

Even if traffic should be diverted to other routes on touristy days, there are limited alternatives for traffic, meaning back-to-back traffic is inevitable. This problem will be exacerbated by any future pursuit of mass tourism and the lack of an effective mass transport plan.

An appropriate mass transport plan would include 24-hour buses, dedicated bus lanes, reliable taxi timetables, secure disembarkation points, park-and-ride options, and the incorporation of other incentives to reduce traffic. number of vehicles on the road at the same time.

With 400 cars imported to the Caymans each month before COVID, additional car use by visiting workers and staying tourists, vehicle emissions and pollution are also valid concerns. Unfortunately, these concerns are difficult to measure because Cayman does not appear to perform advanced monthly air emissions tests to calculate continued damage to the environment or to our health.

Unfortunately, emissions are not the only consequence of all of these vehicles. With more tourists and more driving, faster wear and tear on our roads is inevitable. The normal life of roads may therefore be shorter and more frequent road repairs may be required. These are additional costs borne by the government.

Cars used by tourists and others get old as well. They are either added to the landfill or left on the side of the road as abandoned vehicles.

Abandoned vehicles add to the growing litter / litter problem, which itself has been exacerbated by the increasing number of visitors and the rapid increase in population. These problems, in turn, were compounded by the dragging of policy makers to implement effective solutions.

While policymakers may have been seen in the past as making slow progress in resolving local issues, quick resolutions were found for incoming investors who wanted to settle in the Caymans and do business here. This has often been done in the form of a Local Business Control License (LCCL), which does not require any Caymanian ownership. As the population has grown, the increased delivery of more LCCL has gone unnoticed.

The reason Caymanians should pay attention to LCCLs is that they are normally granted for a period of 12 years and then renewed. However, owners tend to bring their foreign staff to the Caymans to work in companies and Caymanians will not necessarily benefit from a job at a new LCCL company. The hidden cost here may not be obvious in dollar terms, but it is in terms of lost opportunities for Caymanian jobs.

In my opinion, if the marginalization of Caymanians continues as the population grows rapidly, the greatest hidden costs for Caymanians will be decreased participation in economic growth and reaping fewer economic benefits. If this happens, then in the long run the Caymanians will only be able to survive at the bottom of the economic ladder.

The same will be true if the prospects for mass tourism are explored in the future and the majority of the profits fall into the hands of a few large hospitality players. With regard to the big players dominating the industry, oOne solution that officials may wish to explore is a legal restriction on the issuance of water sports interaction zone licenses and other licenses to Caymanians only.


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