Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell confirmed Thursday that Cayman’s borders will remain officially closed until at least 1 Sept., and no cruise ships will be landing here before then, despite cruise lines advertising sailings to Cayman in August.
Kirkconnell said Cabinet has affirmed the new timeline for the border closure, which was originally due to expire on 31 May.
Earlier this week, Premier Alden McLaughlin said that Cabinet would be considering a revised reopening date for the borders. The Cabinet order for the extended closure, which covers the airports and port, has not yet been issued.
Kirkconnell said the new expiration of the closure is 11:59pm on 31 Aug.
Addressing queries via Zoom from Cayman Brac at Thursday’s COVID-19 briefing about cruise lines advertising port calls in August, the deputy premier said, “Cabinet has passed a policy that the port will not be open to cruise lines until 1 September 2020,” but added that there was no guarantee the port would be reopened by then, with the timeframe to be reviewed at a later date.
McLaughlin, earlier this week, said the announcements from the cruise companies were made without consulting with government.
Kirkconnell said the cruise business “is extremely fluid” and it may be some time before those ships touch local shores.
“I don’t think that we’re going to see cruise vessels back in Grand Cayman [for the] second, third quarter or fourth quarter, to be quite honest. We will continue to dialogue and see what’s the best for the tourism industry and product,” he said.
He explained that government is in the process of putting together its medium-term and long-term plan for tourism.
“We’ll have a good go-forward plan that will involve the total package of incentives, skill set, training, education and what the opportunity is for us as a small island nation to continue to lead this region,” he said.
Kirkconnell, who is also deputy premier, said the measures that have been implemented by government are not short-term fixes.
“This is a complete new way of doing business,” he said as he endorsed the actions taken thus far to contain COVID-19, adding that striking the right balance is extremely important.
He said he believes the tourism industry is at the end of its free fall and “now we are starting to build it back”.
He said the biggest part of Cayman’s recovery is the financial services industry which will probably be the least affected by “this new normal”.
Construction, he added, is still vibrant and strong in Cayman.
“Construction companies want to get back online and work,” he said. “We want them online because of what it’s going to do for the domestic economy and jobs.”
He said tourism, the “third leg” of the economy, would “recover in segments” – first, domestically, through staycations.
“The tourism industry is not going to be able to recover until the world recovers around us … We have to understand how the major airlines in the world get back into operation and start carrying people in them,” he said.
Rebuilding Cayman, he said, is going to need all hands on deck.
“It’s going to take an incentive package that we understand we have to help business reinvent themselves, we have to put the educational process and the skill sets in place to make sure the Caymanian people are given every opportunity to move into the new jobs and new areas that are going to be available,” he added.
McLaughlin also said that work is being done on a document outlining what government’s phased plan would look like and it should be made public soon.