As a vacation destination, the Cayman Islands are known for their gorgeous beaches, warm climate and laid-back lifestyle. With a unique blend of old and new, the Cayman Islands have become a popular cruise ship destination.
The Cayman Islands recently celebrated its 50th year as a tourist destination. New Tourism Minister Chris Young is working to transform the islands into a premiere cruise destination.
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Following almost a decade of rule by a pro-tourism administration that backed a now-defunct proposal to construct a multibillion-dollar cruise ship terminal, Cayman Islands voters chose Wayne Panton to replace Alden Mclaughlin as premier in April.
In turn, Panton selected Kenneth Bryan as the country’s new tourism and transportation minister, ending Moses Kirkconnell’s lengthy term as the role’s most recognized leader in the area.
Despite considerable tourist development in the past decade, the Cayman Islands is one of several Caribbean countries struggling to maintain land-based and cruise-ship tourism in the wake of the pandemic’s extraordinary difficulties.
I spoke with Bryan this week to get his take on the difficulties and possibilities the area confronts as it prepares to reopen to international tourists.
“After waiting to see how the global component of the epidemic would play out, we were fortunate enough to make some decisions.” Kenneth Bryan (Kenneth Bryan)
TP: Could you explain the territory’s policies and attitude in the aftermath of the pandemic?
KB: Cayman is in a rare situation because our finances — our number one pillar, financial services – were unaffected in any manner, so even though we lost some income, we were able to keep operating. I’m sure our Caribbean brothers and sisters aren’t prepared in that regard, and their reliance on tourism is much greater than ours.
After waiting to observe how the global element of the epidemic played out, we were fortunate enough to make some choices. We aim to make safety a top priority. Because your brain can’t fully appreciate an event if it’s concerned about your safety. You want to be worry-free when on vacation. If you’re not worry-free while on vacation, you’re not going to have a good time. As a result, it has been our primary emphasis.
TP: What has the government done to keep tourist providers afloat during this downturn?
KB: In a variety of ways, we’ve been able to help many of our tourist stakeholders. During this time, we pay workers who have lost their employment as a consequence of the epidemic up to $2,000 each month. We are awarding incentives to companies totaling almost $42,000. There are a variety of different initiatives available to restaurant owners. We’re using a variety of methods to preserve what we have on the ground while we’re closed, incentivizing people by providing them money to pay their expenses.
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TP: How are the Cayman Islands planning on reopening to foreign tourists in the future?
KB: We’ll have to reopen at some point. The rest of the world expects us to reopen. We want to make sure it’s done in a methodical manner. Our strategy is divided into five stages; we are now in phase two, and nothing will conspire against us.
We want to get to stages four and five, when the majority of visitors are expected to arrive. Local residents, those who need to travel for medical reasons, and business travelers are the only ones who can travel right now.
TP: How will the government’s plan for the first reopening be implemented?
KB: There will be a quarantine period from September 9 to October 14, which will enable us to accept a limited number of visitors while we evaluate our systems. In the Caribbean, the typical quarantine period is five days, so count on five or six days on average.
We believe that our condominium market will benefit. Travelers may stay with their families in a magnificent seaside villa and not have to leave since meals will be brought to them. [Travelers] will be allowed to go out and enjoy island activities at the conclusion of day five. After October 14, anybody who has been completely vaccinated may disembark and go about the island, staying in a condo or hotel.
TP: Have you heard anything from your airline partners?
KB: Our airlines have informed us that with this’soft’ reopening, they will be able to bring in the majority of people who want to visit the location until October. As a result, approximately a week before the complete opening in October, additional flights will become accessible. In the months of September and October, I anticipate a lot to happen.
TP: When your administration took office, the territory’s proposal to construct a cruise dock and terminal, which had been endorsed by the previous administration, came to a stop. Why did this strategy fail in the end?
KB: As you may be aware, there was significant public resistance to the cruise proposal, most of which was related to the construction of a pier. We care about our environment and value it, which is why we choose to prioritize quality above quantity. We are aware that we are not the only ladies on the street, but we are certain that we are the most attractive. That is something we want to keep. As a result, we didn’t want to work on a project that would have a negative effect on the environment.
Of course, we want to reintroduce cruise tourism, but we aren’t quite ready yet. We are prepared on the ground because we are certain that we can provide our visitors with a similar experience.
A long-planned cruise terminal project in the Cayman Islands has been canceled.
TP: What is the Cayman Islands’ near cruise future?
KB: Some important issues came up during my recent talks with cruise companies. Before reaching the Cayman Islands, cruise ships often have to stop at other ports. So there are two main obstacles to overcome, and I’m happy to report that one of them seems to have been overcome: the cruise companies’ ability to compel passengers to provide evidence of immunization.
The second stumbling block is that, even if everyone on board is vaccinated, they may disembark at ports with different requirements than ours. The procedures in place when [guests] boarded the ship have been abandoned. They’ve infiltrated a neighborhood where they might be infected with the virus, and then they’ll use the spacecraft to invade our area.
I’ve looked at a few possibilities in order to come up with a solution. The expense of gasoline is the reason cruise companies couldn’t stop at the Cayman Islands first on Caribbean itineraries. As a result, some kind of intervention or incentive on fuel prices for operators might be devised.
We desire cruise, and it is, after all, a significant part of our business; but, we must be the greatest at what we do, and cruise must remain a niche market.
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