The transfer of services from TravelTime to Travel Cayman – entities tasked with handling travel to and from Cayman – did not go smoothly, and the new operator became overwhelmed with applications, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson acknowledged Monday.
Travel Cayman began operating on 1 Oct. when it took over responsibility from TravelTime, which was being run by Ministry of International Trade, Investment, Aviation and Maritime Affairs. Cayman launched its phased reopening of its borders on that date, allowing returning residents to self-isolate at their own homes on island, using monitoring wristbands and apps.
An online portal, which launched last week, has helped ease the process, Manderson told legislators on Monday.
The deputy governor, speaking in the Legislative Assembly, said, “The number of travellers who wished to return home using the new policy of home isolation overwhelmed the [Travel Cayman] team. … The civil service aims to provide an exemplary service to our customers; when we do not achieve that goal, we will not make excuses, we will not bury our head in the sand and hope that the problem go away. We redouble our efforts and resolve the problem.”
Last week, TravelCayman began operating its new web portal, allowing people wishing to enter the Cayman Islands to apply online.
Manderson, who chairs the programme board that oversaw the development and implementation of the new Travel Cayman management system and portal, said, as of Saturday, 24 Oct., 752 requests had been received, representing 1,038 travellers.
He added that 290 travel approvals have been issued – about 40% of the total requests – and 370 are being processed. Of the remaining applications, 67 either needed confirmation of quarantine arrangements or further information from the traveller; and 25 requests were rejected for not meeting the travel criteria.
Manderson said more than 600 people were currently in home isolation.
He pointed out that the streamlined process also had helped to eliminate the long waiting times on calls during the transition from TravelTime to Travel Cayman.
There had been numerous complaints from the public about long wait times or phone calls to Travel Cayman not being answered, as people tried to seek approval to travel.
Manderson said the problem of long wait times on calls had been addressed.
Giving an example on one single day – Saturday, 24 Oct. – Manderson said, more than 130 calls were handled, with an average waiting time of 48 seconds, with a maximum wait of 11 minutes and 20 seconds.
“The average duration of a call was around four minutes, and the maximum call time was 28 minutes and 34 seconds,” he said.
All travellers looking to come to Cayman in November are required to apply through the new portal. Those who have applied already to TravelTime are being asked to reapply through the TravelCayman portal so that they can also select their quarantine option.
The deputy governor stressed that travellers who have not submitted an application and received approval from Travel Cayman will not be permitted to board a repatriation flight to Cayman.
Travel Cayman process outlined
Manderson explained that Travel Cayman is a cross-ministerial project which comprises teams from a number of government agencies.
To date, more than 140 staff from core government, statutory authorities and government-owned companies have been redeployed to work with Travel Cayman, he said.
They provide support with travel management, travel support, health screening, and monitoring and compliance requirements.
“As the volume of travellers increases over time, the level of support provided increases in tandem to maintain a positive travel experience. In addition, a new travel support team staffed through collaboration with The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman has been incorporated to provide support to travellers who have queries or need non-emergency assistance while in quarantine,” he said.
Manderson, in his statement, outlined the new Travel Cayman application process, which gives the traveller the option to indicate what type of quarantine they intend to undergo – at a private residence, a hotel, a government facility or otherwise.
Once the application has been submitted, the traveller will receive an automatically generated email advising when they can expect to hear back from the Travel Cayman team.
The travel request then appears on the dashboards of multiple government agencies, each of which plays a part in reviewing and approving the travel request, stated a tourism ministry press release issued Monday.
Customs and Border Control will check immigration status to confirm that the traveller complies with current policies, while teams of inspectors validate that the proposed residential quarantine location is suitable.
Once all checks have been completed in the system, a Certificate to Travel is automatically issued, with applicable traveller data sent to relevant agencies, such as the Health Services Authority.
The HSA will receive a complete list of incoming passengers two days before a flight “so that they can register travellers in the system that is used to manage COVID-19 PCR testing, and prepare and label the tests that will be required each day”, the release stated.
Opposition Leader Arden McLean questioned the surveillance process for those self-isolating. Manderson said daily checks are made and the ImSafe wristbands worn by those in quarantine send out alerts if anyone violates the geofencing technology.
He said there have been instances where the alerts were triggered and the surveillance team went to the residence. In one case, he said a woman triggered the alert when she went to do gardening at her home.
For questions or concerns pertaining to inbound travel, email [email protected] or call 743-8463 between 8:30am and 5pm, Monday through Friday.