Villa-rental companies propose new bubble concept

The proposal suggests that private villas represent the best option for an initial phase of tourism's return.

Two of Cayman’s largest villa-rental companies are in talks with government over a new vacation-bubble concept.

Cayman Villas and Grand Cayman Villas & Condos have jointly asked that licensed, stand-alone private villas be considered as the first tourism properties to be permitted to welcome back visitors. They say the proposal, details of which have been shared with the Cayman Compass, is similar to a staggered reopening plan being used in Anguilla.

They are proposing visitors receive a pre-arrival COVID test, and a PCR test upon arrival with isolation for three days instead of the 14 days currently required.

The proposal also calls for a subsequent PCR test on days 4, 8 and 14 of the vacation, similar to what is currently happening in Bermuda.

Visitors may also have to agree to wear a geofencing or contact-tracing bracelet under the proposal, which has been pitched to the Cayman Islands government.

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Government has acknowledged it is considering multiple presentations from the tourism sector – including a hotel bubble concept – but has so far been reluctant to risk cutting the mandatory quarantine period for anyone arriving in Cayman.

The two companies, which collectively manage more than 100 villas, have suggested that these properties – which have no on-site employees, no shared amenities and no overlap of arriving and departing guests – represent the safest sector for a measured return of tourism. They believe this would allow for a staggered return of tourists, eventually leading to hotels and other properties being allowed to welcome visitors. The room stock of private villas accounted for less than 10% of stayover tourism in 2019.

A graph produced by the two companies shows their vision for a staggered return of tourism, starting with villas in a phase II trial period.

Juliet Cumber-Forget, of Cayman Villas, said the proposal was designed to allow a small number of tourists to return safely.

“We are asking the leadership to consider opening the stand-alone private villa sector first, during phase two, so that Cayman’s resources will not be overwhelmed,” she said. “The limited stock of licensed private villas on all three islands will also serve the added purpose of self-regulating the actual quantity of tourists permitted into the country.”

She suggested that a combination of multiple tests, isolation, social distancing, mask wearing and contact tracing would allow for a shorter initial quarantine period that could make vacations feasible.

“The tourism sectors are all willing to wear masks if it means that we can welcome back our guests,” she said.

Cumber-Forget said the villa sector had already implemented the strict cleaning and sanitisation protocols developed by the Department of Tourism and would work with government on any other regulations considered necessary.

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