“The big fish come in and swallow up the little fish.” That is what Captain Crosby said to my family and me as we sailed out to Stingray City in Grand Cayman.
SEMI-FINALIST 2015 FTF TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Grand Cayman is full of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. From the Seven Mile Beach on the west side of the island to the blowholes on the rocky shores of the east side, all were amazing. The locals of the island are the most hospitable people I have encountered. With all of these traits and a strong tourist economy to keep the island prosperous, everything should be great, right? Well maybe not. My concern is that in twenty years time, the Cayman Islands will be a destination of the past, full of locals struggling to keep the island thriving.
In the late 1700’s multiple shipwrecks happened surrounding the Cayman Islands. This fact alone makes the islands a must-see for travelers who love to dive. In 1966 the Department of Tourism was established and tourism became the main source of income for the islands, due to a decline in the shipbuilding industry. By 1970, the population of Grand Cayman had reached 10,000, the local economy was thriving and the island was ready to keep growing. In 2014 the population was recorded as 56,691… this means the population grew almost 6 times its size! This may seem great at first glance, but it leads me to question if the islands are becoming too commercial and economically unbalanced.
With an economy centered on tourism, larger companies are bound to join the force of island entertainment. Because companies such as Red Sail Sports and Acquarius Sea Tours have more resources to gain exposure, they get more customers, which may benefit the economy, but it sure does not benefit the locals. As a result, many tourists miss out on truly authentic island experiences. When planning your trip to the Caymans it takes some digging to find those local excursions.
For example, I had two distinct and unique experiences with locals. Captain Crosby took me and my family out to snorkel and pet stingrays on a 50 foot catamaran that he built himself. I was able to drive the boat in while the Captain played his guitar and sang. I also rode horses on the north end of the island. The horses were kept by a local woman who ran her business from her house. I would have never had these experiences with a large company. The corporations on the island are only widening the gap between the wealthy and poor. I witnessed this gap first hand while driving around the island. On one side of the street were million dollar beach side mansions and on the other were shacks with wild chickens in the yard where the locals live.
There is no room for the population of Grand Cayman to keep increasing the way it has in past years. My fear is with the lack of room that is needed to accommodate the growing capacity the public will move on to the next craze vacation spot, such as the Balearic or Whitsunday islands, leaving Caymanian industry to support the island on its own. There is a long term tourism plan instated by the government but who knows how long that will last. We will just have to wait fifteen years and see if Grand Cayman and its locals are still surviving on the bones of tourism and diving or if it will be a washed up tourist destination with already seen beaches and impoverished locals.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.