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News from Cayman - June 2006

Travel & news discussion about the Cayman Islands

Moderator: Skip

News from Cayman - June 2006

Postby gotocayman » Thu Jul 13, 2006 5:58 pm

Law firm Appleby Spurling Hunter is to merge with Jersey firm Bailhache Labesse. In 2004, local law firm Hunter & Hunter merged with Bermudan firm Appleby Spurling & Kempe. The new firm which will start business on 1st September 2006, will be known as Appleby Hunter Bailhache and have nearly 600 staff and over 40 partners. The firm will have offices in Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and Jersey as well as a presence in the major financial centres of London and Hong Kong.
In other corporate news, Wilmington Trust, one of America's largest personal trust service providers, has announced that it has acquired PwC Corporate Services (Cayman) Limited (PwCS), a provider of company administration and bookkeeping facilities in the Cayman Islands, from the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCooper.

Speaking at a workshop set up to help local businesses get more benefit from cruise operators, Director of Tourism Pilar Bush said that the Cayman Islands has to work harder to give tourists value for money. "Cayman is not perceived to be good value for money. We need to take this on board as a country. We are challenged with this perception. This does not mean things have to be cheap. It means we have to add value". Referring to the results of a travel survey, she said that 94% of visitors to the Caribbean were aware of the Cayman Islands. Cayman outperforms competitors as a family destination, but is deemed to be a less romantic destination that some Jamaican resorts. However, Cayman scores highly for water sports, diving and shopping, but received lower ratings for nightlife, restaurants and culture. "The perception is that this is not an interesting culture. We know this is not true, we are just not packaging it right." Bush suggested that local businesses looking to cater to cruise ship guests could consider moving into the performing arts, locally made arts and crafts and unique retail outlets.

Hardly had the hurricane season started than a depression settled over the islands. According to local weather stations, Tropical Storm Alberto dropped over 19 inches of rain at Sunset House, 17 inches of rain in the East End and 11 inches on Crewe Road. The bad weather also meant that the Queen's Birthday Celebration and Garden Party were postponed. This compares to an average monthly rainfall for June of under 7 inches. The heavy rain lead to some localised flooding; one wave of bad weather brought over 2.5 inches of rain in just over an hour and wind speeds around 50mph caused damage to at least one power pole.

At a recent seminar to discuss storm surges across the Caribbean, Cayman Island's meteorologists said that the expect the islands to be affected by four hurricanes every five years if current weather conditions continue. Even though the islands may not suffer a direct hit, there was a good chance that the country would feel the effects from the hurricanes. In 2005 Cayman didn't suffer a direct hit, but felt the force of hurricanes Emily and Wilma. The Meteorological Office has also adopted a new modelling tool to deal with storm surges. TAOS - The Arbiter of Storm - has been specially tailored to Cayman's needs. Senior Meteorological Services manager Fred Sambula said that the tool gives "pictorial information on possible impacts and predicts how storm surges affects the coastline". Sambula added that he believes TAOS is superior to other modelling tools as it only needs a small amount of data to predict when storm surge, winds, and waves are likely to become a problem.

The largest cruise ship in the world made it's maiden visit to Cayman this month. Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas can carry up to 4,375 passengers, but on this cruise only had 3,600 passengers. Royal Caribbean is adding two more ships of similar size to it's fleet in the coming years.

An American property developer, Stanley Thomas, has paid US$100 million to buy 300 acres of land just north of the Cayman Islands Yacht Club and Salt Creek. He has also bought 1500 feet of Seven Mile Beach property (this compares with the Hyatt's 200 feet frontage and the Marriott's 330 feet). Real Estate experts are saying that this has the potential for development of a massive five-star standard resort to include an 18-hole golf course, marina, residential frontage and beachfront villas. According to Kim Lund, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Cayman Islands' monthly report into the Real Estate sector, (see http://www.caymanlundteam.com/journal_may06.php) "One does not invest about US$100 million dollars in land without planning to develop it and realize a return." "At this stage, it is still too early to determine what will happen with this accumulation of properties until a master plan has been completed. However, with the amount of investment already made to acquire these properties, some sort of development, not unlike the Hyatt and Ritz-Carlton will likely take place in the near future, but on a larger scale."

The Department of Agriculture is working to contain and eradicate the pink hibiscus mealybug (PHM), a serious plant pest that has been discovered in George Town. Samples sent to the Florida Department of Agriculture's laboratory confirmed the outbreak. The pest feeds on plant sap and also releases toxic substances that may injure or slowly kill the plant. Signs that a plant has been infected include white, cotton-like masses on the plants, stick secretions that attract ants. In the mid-1990s, PHM caused economic losses in excess of $3.5 million a year in Grenada and $125 million a year in Trinidad and Tobago, according to US Department of Agriculture reports. Department of Agriculture's Assistant Director Adrian Estwick said that plans developed in 1996 to deal with the threat including cultural, classical biological, chemical, and legal controls to combat the pest would be implemented. "With cultural control, the department will focus on removing and destroying heavily invested plants; classical biological control refers to importing and releasing natural enemies of the PHM." "Chemical control involves the responsible use of pesticides in specific cases, mostly nurseries, to work toward zero tolerance for PHM. Lastly, legal controls could include quarantines of nurseries and garden centres if they become infected, as well as the implementation of laws governing within, as well as inter-island, movement of plants."
One of the steps being taken is the importation of a wasp, Anagryrus kamali, from Puerto Rico. The US Department of Agriculture has agreed to send 5,000 wasps a week to the Caymans for the foreseeable future. These will be released in the affected areas, along with thousands of parasitic beetles with the hope that, within a year, the mealybug will have been 90% eradicated. The Department of Agriculture (DoA) have issued a presentation (in Adobe Acrobat format) about the mealybug with photos showing infestation and the DoA's strategies for containing and eradicating the pest and informing residents how they can help at http://www.gov.ky/pls/portal/url/item/1 ... 030B0A4E52

Last year Treasure Island Resort was bought and the new owners said that it would not be trading as a hotel, but would be available for long-term leases. Well, they have now changed their minds, and some 50 of the 290 renovated rooms will be made available as a tourist hotel. A further 30 odd rooms will be constructed in the area above the lobby in the next nine months. Subject to completion of central building work (a new entrance lobby, etc), approval will be sought from the Hotels Licensing Board towards the end of the year in time for peak season.

The current rollover policy has come under criticism from new quarters. Some of the members of the Council of Associations, a body representing professional associations in a number of private industry sectors, have written to the the Chairman of the Immigration Review Team recommending a number of changes to the policy on the seven–year term limit for work permits and Permanent Residency. The letter was backed by the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce, the Cayman Islands Bankers Association, the Cayman Contractors Association, the Cayman Islands Insurance Association, the Cayman Islands Bankers Association, the Cayman Islands Fund Administers Association, the Cayman Association of Architects, Surveyors and Engineers, and the Cayman Islands Tourism Association. Whilst accepting the term-limit protected interests for Caymanians, the Council said "there is genuine concern and fear of the future of certain business sectors because of the ability to attract and maintain professionals and skilled workers which are in short supply locally and globally". One recommendation is that businesses should be able to specify a percentage of key staff and key posts that should be exempted from the term policy. They also believe that the points system for Permanent Residency should be reviewed. A copy of the press release is on the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce website at http://www.wliinc2.com/cgi/foxweb.dll/w ... &docid=353
President of the Cayman Islands Society for Human Resource Professionals, Samantha Bennett, said the rollover policy is one of the most important issues that local Human Resource professionals are facing. Ms Bennett added "Someone may be perfect for a job that you can't find a Caymanian for, but you have to consider how long they have been here on the Island. If the candidate is close to seven years - then you have to consider if it makes sense to bring this person on for a year, if you are going to have to look for someone else within 12 months. This is not just about skills or training Caymanians anymore. This is not just about applying to Immigration for work permit renewals. There are additional factors." She added that some HR managers are examining employees resumes to see if there has been a six month break in their residency that would effectively mean that the seven year clock has been reset. Many businesses are now looking at succession planning, but valuable staff are being lost: "some people are still feeling cornered and are moving away when it gets close to their seven years or they stop trying to better themselves, because they know they will be leaving".
One employment agency on Cayman, BrightStaff, is now offering a service to find jobs overseas for those have hit the seven year limit on their work permit in the financial sector. BrightStaff President Kathleen Jackman said "Many professionals are considering leaving the island as a result of the term restrictions set out in the roll over policy. As some employees were not fully aware of their window of opportunity for applying for permanent residency, the need to identify career opportunities off the island may be very immediate." BrightStaff's Quality Assurance Manager Cheryl Farquharson added "The hedge fund industry in the greater Toronto area is growing rapidly and for Cayman's professionals wanting to repatriate or move to Canada, there are a variety of opportunities. Toronto clients are stressing their desire to specifically recruit individuals from the Cayman Islands who have gained valuable experience in the offshore hedge fund industry." BrightStaff are also recruiting for financial positions in New York, London and Bermuda with leading financial services firms.

Wild dogs have killed two Cayman Blue Iguanas, mauled a pregnant female and a fourth iguana is missing (feared dead) from the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. The dead iguanas, Slugger and Sapphire, were both part of the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme and had been born in 1997 and released into the park in 1999. Fred Burton, director of the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme said "They were not tame, but they were not afraid of people. They were like ambassadors. Thousands of visitors admired them and took their pictures, which are now all over the world." Several dog traps have been set. Mr Burton added that "If we succeed in catching the dogs, we'll have to put them down". He added that unfortunately irresponsible pet owners are making their job harder. "Well–meaning people are bringing animals to the park and abandoning them, thinking park staff will be kind to animals. We have found kittens, full–grown cats, puppies and green iguanas and we have absolutely no option but to trap them and remove them. They have no place here and they're damaging the native wildlife we're trying so hard to protect." Should you wish to donate to the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, then you can through their website at http://www.blueiguana.ky/

Minister of Tourism Charles Clifford has announced that George Town Harbour has been chosen as the site of the berthing facility for cruise ships. The project now enters the design phase, with plans to be drawn up. Mr Clifford added that the recommendation of the National Tourism Management Policy to limit cruise visitors to 9,200 per day will have to be revised to take into account the improved infrastructure.

Caribbean tourism officials are campaigning for the postponement of the implementation of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which is supposed to take effect 1 January, 2007. Under the scheme, US citizens would have to possess a valid passport when re–entering the US from a Caribbean destination. However, a recent survey of cruise ship passengers showed that only 45% had passports. Vincent Vanderpool–Wallace, secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, said "The reason for a further postponement must be that the pick up of new passports by US citizens has been nowhere near the numbers that we would like to see". "We recognize that we have an added problem, which is that so many people have been so accustomed for so long to waking in the morning and deciding to go to the Caribbean because they didn't need a passport, that there has to be an extensive campaign to let a lot more people know about this new requirement." "We've done surveys of US travellers to the Caribbean who currently hold valid passports and although the numbers seem to vary with each survey, some results show that up to 70 per cent do have passports. However, I will not be comfortable until at least 90 per cent of the US market has passports." Rick Webster of the Travel Industry Association added "Things are confusing. One possible outcome is people won't travel. There could be tens of thousands of people who decide not to travel because they're concerned about what documentation they'll need." Mr Webster also advises Americans "If people are planning any type of travel after January of 2007, get a passport. Run, don't walk".

The Information and Communications Technology Authority (ICTA) had launched a public consultation document on Unsolicited Electronic Messages (Spam). The paper seeks to discuss and obtain feedback on the various policy issues which are raised when considering anti-spam legislation. The objective is to ensure that any anti-spam legislation enacted in Cayman Islands is an effective tool as part of a multi-pronged attack on spam. The 17-page discussion document (in Adobe PDF format) can be downloaded from http://www.icta.ky/docs/SPAM/CD%202006- ... ssages.pdf. Closing date for comments is 18th August 2006.

Cayman Airways Express' two new De Havilland Twin Otters have been christened; the Cayman Brac Adventurer and Little Cayman Explorer. The addition of the two planes means that there will now be six daily inter-island round trips.

As a result of Post Office users earlier in the year, the Cayman Islands Post Office is making plans to open on Saturday by the end of summer. More that 1,500 people completed the survey, and 69 per cent of respondents want the Post Office to open on Saturday. The alternative, extended weekday hours, was selected by 53 per cent of respondents. The Airport Post Office is the most used facility with nearly 40 per cent of respondents; General Post Office came in second with almost 30 per cent; and Seven Mile Beach was third, with 26 per cent. The tasks that most respondents were unable to complete during regular hours are purchasing stamps (about 31 per cent), followed by dealing with parcel post (27 per cent) and using Registered Mail (about 29 per cent). 876 respondents said they do not want home delivery and 1010 people (over 66 per cent) said they would not be willing to pay for that service. Postmaster General Sheena Glasgow said that she was not totally surprised by the results. "The results show areas of both strength and weakness. Initiatives such as Saturday openings and customer service training for front line staff will be addressed by the end of the year. The introduction of stamp vending machines is being considered". Also under consideration is a service whereby a customs-cleared parcel can be delivered directly to a customer's home or office. A larger facility at Savannah is also in the planning stage.
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