Posted on October 24, 2022
During a question-and-answer session at the Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA) meeting this week, Hermes Cuello, General Manager of Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort, asked the Minister of Tourism, Kenneth Bryan what his ministry was doing about the Marriott beach erosion issue. In response, Bryan confirmed that he was aware of the issue, but said that, ultimately, the issue is being led by the Ministry of Sustainability and not the Ministry of Tourism.
Bryan said: “I want you to know that we are very cognizant of the problem. I indicated to the department to send out a team to assess the situation and I am fully aware how bad it is. I have explained to the Premier that I am responsible for tourism and the product. [But] I don’t want to step out of line and say what the plan of action is because it falls under his remit.”
While Bryan emphasized throughout his answer that the beach restoration efforts do not fall within his ministry, he explained that the estimates were “between 16 and 20 million dollars” to restore the Marriott’s beach by placing new sand there.
The challenge with doing this, as Bryan explained, is the uncertainty in terms of the length of time that the restored beach would last after the money is spent to restore it.
Bryan said: “The difficulty is… it is that… if we were to put that sand back and another storm comes and just takes it right away, that’s a substantial amount of money that would be lost.”
Regional stakeholders, including the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network, also have concerns about the effectiveness of beach restoration, in particular where there is development near the beach and where seawalls are present.
On their website, they said:
The linkages between development and the persistence of sandy beaches are complex, and should be considered with care before construction near sandy beaches is permitted or undertaken. If dunes are leveled, vegetation removed, and/or solid jetties or seawalls constructed, the likelihood of committing the owners to repetitive and increasingly expensive beach restoration and renourishment is heightened. Rebuilding a natural beach is costly, and often ineffective. The forces precipitating the erosion generally cannot be allayed by the act of restoration, and in many cases the cycle inexorably begins anew.
Although the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network were not present at the CITA meeting, Bryan’s next comments at the CITA meeting mirrored their concerns regarding the impact of the “development” factor mentioned above.
Bryan said: “I think the part that we need to start talking about is the sustainability of our tourism product and the fact that we should no longer allow buildings to be built so close to the beach. And I’m telling you right now this government is going to put everything in place to stop it.”
Bryan noted that he accepts that his explanation “doesn’t solve the problem” for Marriott, but said he has “expressed that, on behalf of the industry, that it needs to be resolved because it is affecting the product.”
“I will make sure that there is some sort of notice to the public and particularly to the CITA membership as to what the Premier’s plans are for it as I can understand your concern.”