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Brac bike rental business feeling impact of regulations

Business 31 Jan, 2022 Follow News

Ken Hydes

Active Pursuit bikes ready for hire

Ken Hydes at his Active Pursuit business on the Brac

Staff at Active Pursuit have been retained

The Caymanian Times continues its investigation into how Cayman businesses have been impacted by the pandemic and whether/how they hope to get back on their feet in 2022. Here, we chat with Ken Hydes, former President of Cayman Islands Tourism Association and current Chairman of the Cayman Turtle Centre, who owns Active Pursuit, a bike rental company on his adopted home island of Cayman Brac, to see how his business has weathered the storm of Covid.


Always a lover of the outdoors, Ken Hydes realised that he wanted to open a bike rental business on the Brac after training for a 220-mile, two-day bike ride from Ottawa to Kingston, Ontario in Canada in 2017, which saw him traverse some incredible, hilly terrain.

“I’ve always loved being outdoors,” Ken advised. “If I can be outdoors, I’ll be outdoors. I’ve always had an affinity with the Brac – the Brac really is Cayman’s outdoors adventure playground. I trained for the Canada bike ride on the Bluff on the Brac and it was great.”

And so, the idea for Active Pursuit was born, a bike rental company that also offers tours which take in the caves, beaches and general scenery of the island.

“In 2018, I decided to open up the business in a bid to help complement other outdoor activity businesses on the Brac, such as rock climbing and diving, with a view to expanding in the future to include fly fishing,” Ken said. “In October 2019 we opened and our first customers was a DOT familiarisation group which kicked things off.”

Ken said he was quite surprised how well the business was doing in December of that year, with profits covering expenses. Even with the shutdown of the borders in March 2020, Ken said he was fairly upbeat and could keep the operation open and staff in employment thanks to his landlord offering a grace period on his rent.

After Cayman shut its borders to tourists in March 2020, the Sister islands of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman began to see a pick-up in interest by residents of Grand Cayman, with people desperately seeking a change of scenery without actually going abroad.

“As we began opening up, we were doing OK. We didn’t go back to the success of January 2020 but we certainly gained a real boost with local travel,” he confirmed.

The business was even successful in attracting school trips, which saw a decent boost to the business.

“We weren’t doing exceptionally great, but at least I didn’t have to pay staff out of my personal salary,” Ken advised, adding that he has taken no stipend or grant from government.


Downward turn

However, things were not to continue to look so upbeat once government required vaccination cards for travel.

“This really slowed the pace and was a real turning point, as others on Cayman Brac would no doubt agree,” he said. “At most, we were getting just a couple of bikes rented per week.”

Fast forward to latest regulations whereby travellers to and from the Sister islands must get a negative LFT to fly, and the business has been pretty much decimated.

“There is no doubt the new policy has made a big impact.” Ken said. “I am not objecting to the need for regulations; however, I’m just stating how these regulations have impacted businesses like mine on the Brac.”

It was normal for Ken to travel to the Brac (where he has his home, his business and is a registered voter) every weekend. Now, the thought of the disruption that might occur should he have to take an LFT and be positive when he is without symptoms, is preventing him from travelling there.

“I get the concept of life over business instead of business over life, but I think we need to take a look at how the rest of the world is dealing with Covid,” he said. “There has to be a level of personal responsibility.”

Ken believes Cayman must decide how it is going to get back to normality and make the transition back following global trends.

Ken notes a level of interest from customers wishing to return and use his services.

“It would really be great to get stayover tourism back on the Brac,” he said, “but the current regulations are not helping. The impact of these new regulations can be seen all over the Brac. Where last year there were no rental cars available, now the car rental companies have car parks full of cars. I was at Barracudas bar and restaurant over Christmas and it was just me and the barman!”

Ken also worries that now that local residents are able to travel off island more freely, the lure of the Sister islands will fade. He hopes that interest in the Brac will not wane too much and that people will still want to visit and even live on the Brac.

“During the first part of the pandemic, the Brac saw a big upsurge in interest. People bought homes and real estate was doing really well, so it has definitely seen its ups and downs. I just want the government to understand that every action and regulation has an impact and is very real for me as a business owner,” he said. “At the moment, there is definitely a level of frustration creeping in.”

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