Editorial: Cayman’s future depends on finding tourism solution

The majority of retail outlets in George Town remain closed.

The Cayman Islands has successfully eradicated COVID-19.

While that is certainly cause for celebration, the job is still only half done.

The same focus and energy should now go into dealing with the economic impact of the virus.

Cayman can’t live in a bubble forever. Close to 3,000 Caymanians working in the tourism industry have been left unemployed and many more jobs and businesses remain in peril.

The current government plan envisages a soft reopening of the borders targeted at vacation-home owners and long-stay visitors in October.

How quickly the islands move towards a more comprehensive return of tourism could be critical to the survival of hotels, restaurants, water-sports operators and attractions, among many others.

While the virus still raging in the rest of the world, it feels like we are living in an alternate reality in Cayman – safe from the impacts of the pandemic.

But a significant portion of our island economy relies on tourists.

At some point, we will need to take some risk with our hard-won status as a COVID-free destination to bring back those dollars. It is not a case of valuing wealth over health.

Atlantis submarine tours has gone into voluntary liquidation
Atlantis submarine tours is one of a handful of businesses to close amid the coronavirus crisis. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

Lives and livelihoods will be ruined if tourism does not return in a meaningful way in relatively short order.

Over the next month, the Cayman Compass, as part of our ongoing Cayman 2.0 series, will be taking a deeper look at the impacts of COVID-19 on the second pillar of our island economy.

We will examine ideas for a safe re-opening and for re-imagining the tourism product in the short term to ensure that businesses can adapt and survive.

And we will also look at the longer-term impact and ask what changes will be needed for Cayman to remain a desirable and safe destination in a global travel market that will be fundamentally changed by the pandemic.

We will examine the viability of new technology as a means to facilitate travel, look at the potential for Cayman Airways to seek out new gateway cities, and assess ongoing efforts to retrain and recruit hundreds of Caymanians into the areas of the industry expected to be most resilient to the aftershocks of the COVID crisis.

How soon tourism will come back to Cayman, and what the industry will look like when it does, are now the most fundamental questions facing our islands.

Our future depends on finding the right answers.

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