Tour operators knocked back from grants

| 15/12/2020 | 9 Comments
Cayman News Service
Troy Leacock

(CNS): A grant programme set up to help tourism and watersports operators struggling to keep their businesses afloat while there are no visitors is rejecting many of them, stakeholders in the sector have said. While several non-related or indirectly-related tourism companies that are less impacted by the lockdown have succeeded in securing grants, the small businesses it was designed to help are being rejected.

Local watersports operator Troy Leacock, the owner of Crazy Crab, managed to secure a grant himself but he is concerned about his colleagues in the sector who have not been so lucky. Leacock said he believes the process may have gone awry and the criteria need to be more transparent.

Emerging as a leading advocate and spokesperson for Caymanian watersports operators, Leacock wrote to Commerce Minister Joey Hew, who is responsible for the grant programme, about the number of small businesses that are fully owned by Caymanians being knocked back when they applied for the grant. He said these were some of the people most impacted by the continued COVID-19 visitor restrictions.

More than a dozen wholly Caymanian-owned watersports companies had been rejected when Leacock first raised his concerns about this second phase of the small business support package. But in an email to CNS he said that number is increasing every day.

“Despite my company being approved for the grant, I will continue to lobby for financial support for my fellow Caymanian operators, because it is necessary and fair for this industry to be supported by the government,” he said. “Considering that this year to date, government has a revenue surplus of $32.2 million, it is simply unacceptable that the industry sector most comprised of Caymanian owners and employees is not fully supported to survive.”

In his correspondence with Leacock, Hew acknowledged some of the difficulties that the schemes present to operators.

The Cayman Islands Centre for Business Development, which falls under the Ministry of Commerce, was established to help small local businesses floored by the border shutdown stay afloat by helping them adapt their services to the local domestic market or pivot to a new type of service.

Hew said it was not designed, as phase one had been, to be a cash grant but to support and assist the development and adaption of small and micro sized businesses that had some chance of surviving.

Hew said this mandate made it very difficult to award some watersports applications. However, he said he recognised the problem and was seeking Cabinet approval to provide another one-time grant “in the region of three thousand dollars” to those who were unsuccessful in this current phase but have a legitimate need. He said that if he was able to secure the extra cash it would not be available until after the New Year.

While Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell announced that the CI$1,000 per month stipend for workers and some small business owners was being extended to June, not all operators are receiving that grant. Many have significant overheads to pay as well, as they battle to stay in business in preparation for the return of visitors later next year.

They also face problems covering health insurance for themselves and workers that they are trying to keep employed. Leacock said business owners are still waiting to hear what is happening with the Health Insurance Premium Assistance Programme (PAP) since it expired in the summer.

“Despite repeated communication with all the relevant authorities and ministers, we still have no indication if and when health insurance premium assistance will resume,” he added.

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Category: Business, Tourism

Comments (9)

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  1. Mitch says:

    Find something else to do. This will be going on for a while. I dunno how much money Cayman Gov’t has to give away but I have been working my ass off to survive …. get used to it. Next year it may be something “else”

    • Anonymous says:

      You’re right about it going to be a while still before tourism comes back. 😢 We aren’t even close to being on a rebound. I’m worried about if/when we will be the tourist spot we’re so famous for being.

      The rules Alden announced for travelers means it could easily be another 9-18 months before we see any big improvement. He wants people to be be vaccinated but it’s going to be a long time before general population is even eligible to get the vaccine. Even after they’re available, many travelers will just go somewhere else that doesn’t require it.

      I know so many people that have said they’re not even thinking of coming back to Cayman until at least 2022. They don’t want to plan for 2021 and then CI Government keep changing the rules for entry and they lose money on useless airline tickets. I’ve heard from others that being forced to visit other places this year made them fall in love with the new place and they’ll probably just keep going there. They had to test before they went and when they landed plus wear masks when inside or near to people but no quarantine.

      Don’t get me wrong…I do NOT want the gates flung open for people to just come do whatever they want and expose Caymanians. Too many have sacrificed too much to let visitors come ruin it. However, we need a re-opening plan that makes sense.

      • Anonymous says:

        Saw an article today that pretty much goes along with the 9-18 months mentioned above. It was an interview with Dr. Vivek Murthy (Biden’s nominee for Surgeon General). He said:

        “If everything goes well, we may see a circumstance whereby late spring, people who are in lower risk categories can get this vaccine,” said Murthy, “but that would really require everything to go exactly on schedule. I think it’s more realistic to assume that it may be closer to mid-summer, early fall when this vaccine makes its way to the general population.”

        That’s almost a year before a significant number of persons are vaccinated. Ugh. 😭 I hope the Cayman Government is following these timelines so they can make good decisions on re-opening. Sadly, I don’t think the current plan of depending on everyone being vaccinated is going to be timely.

  2. Anonymous says:

    As I read comments here, folks don’t want tourists back.

    So why support a business that their customers are not wanted??????????

    Yes, I know, slip your cousin, drinking buddy, etc under the radar. But in the end, many of these small businesses depend on tourists that are nor wanted and openly reviled.

    • Anonymous says:

      Speak for yourself when you say you don’t want tourists.

      Also, just because there are a bunch of economically illiterate fools in this comment section doesn’t mean you can take away peoples’ basic rights to travel and freedom.

  3. Anonymous says:

    CNS- the CIBDC is NOT part of the Dept of Commerce and Industry. It is a standalone entity albeit within the same Ministry- CPI

    CNS: OK, I’ve changed the copy to reflect that.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Joey Hew playing god and trying to buy votes for him and his government thru the grant program. I bet all his friends and supporters businesses were approved. Cronyism at its best. All decisions must be audited now

    • Anonymous says:

      Why are we paying for an Ombudsman office again?
      Just to LOOK like we care about government and MP accountability?…Sounds about right.

  5. Anonymous says:

    That’s crazy! Crazy Crabs in a bucket!

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