Today's Date: 27 June 2016
Last Updated: 11 January 2016 17:07:40 EST
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Boatswain's Beach is out of here

Turtle Farm board member Dara Flowers, Managing Director Tim Adam, Board Chair Ken Hydes and the Turtle Farm's Raymond Hydes.  Photo: Basia Pioro McGuire

Good-bye Boatswain’s Beach.

Hello Cayman Turtle Farm.

The adventure park is being rebranded and renamed to Cayman Turtle Farm: Island Wildlife Encounter.

“The new name not only describes the interactive nature of the facility through the use of the word encounter but also reminds residents and visitors of the park’s older, familiar and popular name, which has in effect really always remained in use anyway,” said the Turtle Farm’s Managing Director Tim Adam.

Turtle Farm Board Chair Ken Hydes said the board expects to be held accountable for the facility’s circumstances, but expressed his gratitude for the chance to correct mistakes.

The Turtle Farm’s new vision statement is for it to be “the Cayman Islands’ premier tourism attraction where visitors and residents enjoy a world class experience, showcasing Caymanian wildlife and heritage while hosting an internationally renowned research and conservation centre for sea turtles”.

Plans are to segregate the Turtle Farm’s research facilities as a charitable non-profit. Mr. Adam said the aim is for better access to local and international funding from inter-governmental, institutional, corporate and individual grants and other donations, “while improving the clarity of accountability for the stewardship of those types of funding”.


Tough turnaround

Mr. Hydes said management does not want to give the perception that the name change means the farm’s problems will be fixed, though it was “committed to getting off the government’s back”.

Since his arrival at the end of January, Mr. Adam has been working with the Turtle Farm’s board to turn around the money-losing facility. The board is taking a structured approach to reduce operational costs, increase revenues, and reduce its debt.

The Turtle Farm was projected to lose more than $9 million in this budget year and estimates show the farm lost more than $11 million last year.

This year, 21 employees were laid off and the remaining 87 staff members were required to take pay cuts between five and 15 per cent.

Mr. Adam said cost-cutting is not sufficient to remedy the problem, though “the days of having to come up with new cutbacks and reductions are pretty much over and done”.

He said the hope is the new name will make it easier to market the attraction, to inform local and overseas visitors about the range of interactive wildlife experiences that can be found at the 23-acre facility and to expand cooperation with domestic and international tourism operators.

The new name deliberately eliminates any confusion around the word beach and the logo, which features a turtle, a parrot, a shark and a silver thatch frond, are designed to remind visitors about the attraction’s many different features.

“The turtle is a reference not just to our historical residents and star performers here at the farm, as well as our cultural past, but the symbol for the turtle is also a reminder of our ongoing and world renowned science, research and conservation activities in addition to the traditional turtle breeding and release programmes,” said Mr. Adam.

In addition to the turtles, the facility’s attractions include an aviary, craft demonstrations and sales, cultural activities, a salt water swimming lagoon, a freshwater pool and shark-feeding tanks.


Plans ahead

According to Mr. Adam, the name change is costing less than many previous marketing and publicity efforts and the initiatives will be rolled out in phases.

“The Turtle Farm itself is footing the bill from within its existing marketing resources and the payoff we believe will more than justify our outlay; more than cover our expenses,” he said.

Nine action teams mostly headed up by the Turtle Farm board of directors are tackling different aspects of the rebranding and restructuring exercise to address the number of guests coming to the park, improve revenues, enhance the attractions and communicate more clearly with the rest of the world.

“We are renewing and revitalizing our relationships with traditional tourism partners such as the cruise ship organisations, the local Department and Ministry of Tourism officials, Cayman Airways, the Cayman Islands Tourism Association and the various visitor attractions in the Northwest Point neighbourhood as well as implementing new marketing strategies to reach our objectives,” Mr. Adam said.

He said more focus will be placed on stay-over tourists, and improving local public opinion by emphasising the world-class science, research and wildlife rescue at the farm and through a series of cultural events and programmes.

Other changes include better signage, improving the mix of entertainment alternatives such as the possibility of a water slide and/or a splash pool for children, more music and culture, more shade and shaded seating and event scheduling. Mr. Adam noted that on cruise days he hoped to have craft workers at the farm not only selling but making crafts.

Banking on making the Turtle Farm more of a cultural centre, Mr. Adam said he hoped the improvements would generate a sense of national pride among Caymanians.

“Cayman Turtle Farm is one of a kind in the world and our Islands’ people can proudly point to the farm as a uniquely Caymanian facility, which has already earned a world-class reputation for research, breeding, release and protection of sea turtles,” he said.

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