Little Cayman itches to open
(CNS): As more of Little Cayman is restored to the main power grid, it is expected that the island will be open for tourists by Thursday. While the smaller Sister Island was far less affected by Hurricane Paloma, the main issue for resorts and residents was the large number of downed power poles. With a CUC crew now on Little Cayman to assist the 2-man CB Power & Light team stationed there, the pace of power restoration has now speeded up.
The privately owned Edward Bodden airstrip was undamaged and the first plane after the hurricane landed Saturday afternoon, 8 November – a few hours after Paloma passed – to pick up portable landing lights for the Brac airport. The bay for the fire truck on Little Cayman was destroyed and the airport still has no power or water but the Fire Service is operating normally.
Following the power outages caused by the hurricane, the Little Cayman Clinic was left without a generator for ten days until Monday, 18 November, which was an impediment to reopening the island for tourists, resort owners were told. Until it was hooked up Monday night, the island’s nurse was operating out of the hurricane shelter, which is in the same building, CNS has learned.
Southern Cross Club (SCC) has had power and water since the Tuesday after the storm, said the resort’s owner, Peter Hillenbrand. Both the SCC docks were damaged during Hurricane Gustav in September, and while the dive dock is fully repaired, the fishing dock still needs some work. However, Paloma left little mark on the resort and it was ready to open by last Sunday, Hillenbrand said.
The SCC has now been inspected and passed for electricity, environmental health, fire safety and tourism. “At this point we are itching to get going,” he said.
Paradise Villas Manager Marc Pothier said that the resort would be ready for visitors within 24 hours of power being restored. He had refunded three people who had had to cancel but all other guests who had booked over this period – about 20 people – had rescheduled.
At the Little Cayman Beach Resort (LCBR), Manager Jason Belporte said the 16 rooms that they had recently renovated would be open as soon as power returned, and he was hopeful that that would happen today (Tuesday). Guests were booked and ready to come on the 22 November and his staff had been working hard so that when mains power was restored, the resort would be ready to receive it. In the meantime, they were using a 45 kilowatt generator, rented from Alba Electrical Contractors in Grand Cayman, which was enough to power both guest wings, the dining area and the lobby, though none of his staff accommodation had electricity. The LCBR dock, which had been repaired after Gustav, was 100% intact, he said.
The Conch Club Condominiums and The Club, which Belporte also manages, would remain closed for now. The Conch Club, which was still undergoing repairs from Hurricane Gustav, should be open for 60% occupancy by 1 December, while The Club would probably be closed until just before Christmas, he said.
Gladys Howard, the owner at Pirates’ Point Resort, said she had been promised power by the end of the week. However, when power was restored to the LCBR she could use their generator to run the compound and work on recovery. She had been told by the Department of Tourism (DoT) that she could not receive guests until the resort was back on mains electricity, despite the fact that Pirates’ Point had run on generator power for six years before the Cayman Brac Power & Light had begun operations on that island, and Howard said she did not understand the DoT rule. One couple who had booked for Thanksgiving had stayed at the resort 24 times in 22 years, including the six years of generator power and she knew they would not mind, she said.
The resort had lost part of their roof over the club house, office, store room and game room and she and her staff were working very hard to clean up. Other than that, apart from the loss of trees, lots of rocks to move and the pool to clean up, the resort was fine. “We have never had to go through an approval after a hurricane before,” Howard said. “I think we’re self-governing enough that we would not open if guests would be compromised.”
Pirates’ Point had had some cancellations because Cayman Airways had told people that they could not travel to Little Cayman. However, Howard said that Acting Director of DoT Shomari Scott had assured resort owners at a meeting on Monday that he would be working with CAL to make sure the right information was disseminated to guests.
Little Cayman residents were also left without supplies until the barge last Saturday – one week after the storm – and several residents told CNS that, while they understood the greater need of those on the Brac, they were frustrated by the lack of support for Little Cayman, which did not receive any aid or any of the donated generators sent to the Brac.
However, bookings for Christmas and New Year are very positive for Little Cayman, with several resorts saying they are full over the holidays. However, as Hillenbrand pointed out, while bookings in the short term look solid, the long-tern outlook could be affected by the downturn in the global economy, especially in the US.
“We’re keeping an eye on it – it seems prudent to play it tight to the vest. The fear is that tourism will have a tough high season, but hopefully the US and world economies will improve by next spring,” Hillenbrand said.
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