The soft reopening of the borders this week is the first step in a cautious, phased approach to bringing back visitors, Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell said.
He was speaking as five planes were scheduled to touch down in Cayman Thursday bringing 191 passengers to the island on day one of the new protocols.
New categories of travelers, including second home owners and long-stay visitors are now able to enter the Cayman Islands.
Inbound passengers need pre-approval from the government and will be tested for COVID-19, as well as face a 14-day mandatory quarantine.
Visitors can isolate at home if they agree to wear a geofencing device that tracks their movements and alerts authorities if they break the conditions of their quarantine.
With those measures in place, Kirkconnell acknowledged there would be no immediate return of traditional tourism.
“We will review what happens in October and see how we move forward in November and December,” he added.
Kirkconnell acknowledged the absence of tourists had left a “void in the economy”.
The Dart group announced last week that it was reducing operations at its hotels in a move that will impact around 500 staff, mostly expatriates.
Kirkconnell accepted that every business owner would have tough decisions to make in the face of the continued impact of the pandemic on global travel.
He told the Cayman Compass that government was seriously looking at a number of measures to bring in business, including a proposal for bubble resorts and a ‘global citizens’ initiative to attract residents to live in Cayman and work remotely overseas as ‘digital nomads’.
Other programmes to attract long-stay tourists are also under review.
Despite increased pressure on the economy, he said government would not take unnecessary chances with public health and would proceed with caution, while doing what it could to support the impacted tourism sector.
“We have had great success in managing the coronavirus and we continue to invest money to support those that are most severely impacted,” he added.
Guided by science
Kirkconnell said government would be “guided by the science” and the advice of medical professionals on how and when to move through each phase of the reopening.
Developments in testing and the availability of vaccines could speed up the process, but he said the global picture was changing daily and it was difficult to give a timeline of when traditional tourism would return to Cayman.
For those who are impacted, Kirkconnell said government would continue to provide the monthly tourism stipend. A programme offering loan support to help businesses survive or adapt is also being developed.
He said support was being provided for people to change careers or reimagine their business plans to be able to cope.