Cayman Islands Tourism Association president Marc Langevin says he is optimistic that lines of communication between his organisation and the government are opening up.

Langevin previously has been critical of what he had described as a lack of communication from government officials about plans for the reopening of the borders and ways of sustaining the flailing tourism industry.

The CITA boss described a Wednesday, 10 Feb., meeting with various branches of government as a “milestone”, saying several issues of concern were covered, including how to communicate to the public, tour operators, airlines and travellers what protocols needed to be in place prior to border reopening.

Speaking on Rooster’s Cayman Crosstalk on 11 Feb., Langevin, who was elected CITA’s new president in November last year, said, “A lot of work has to be done on the marketing and communication of all those protocols, … such as what will testing of arriving visitors and residents look like when people return, how people will be transported, what kind of limitations, or not, will be in place in the first week or 10 days of their visit.”

He said CITA had been seeking a more open dialogue and collaboration with government “for months and months”.

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Marc Langevin, president, Cayman Islands Tourism Association

While acknowledging that the global situation in regards to COVID-19 could well change in the coming months, as it’s an unpredictable issue, Langevin said that all Cayman can do at the moment is control what’s happening within its own borders, and prepare for as many eventualities as possible.

Langevin, who is general manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, said his hotel has been receiving many overseas calls from tourists seeking to come to the island, and was 80% booked for this Christmas. “They want to come, they are knocking at the door; we just need to open the door,” he said.

However, he stated that the tourism industry, while eager to restart operations, was aware of the risks involved and was not pushing for a hasty reopening of the borders, but for a well-thought-out plan that prepared for the eventual reopening.

“If we don’t take the steps to lead gradually to there, we won’t get there,” he said.

In the meantime, he suggested that reallocating resources of people who worked most with cruise ship passengers may be needed to keep them afloat, such as using buses, taxis or boats to take stayover visitors to the eastern districts and expanding attractions there.

The ongoing vaccination of Cayman Islands residents, and the inoculation programmes overseas, means it’s likely there will be a “huge change” in Cayman in the coming months, Langevin said.

People line up outside the Owen Roberts International Airport on 6 Feb. The departures area of the airport has been converted into a temporary vaccination centre. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

“We are going to keep on trying to adapt to new situations and look at what the rest of the world is doing,” he said, adding that as vaccinations ramp up and the number of new COVID cases drops in the UK and US, that will affect existing protocols for incoming visitors.

Later on 11 Feb., Langevin and fellow board members hosted a meeting at The Ritz-Carlton for CITA members to update them on the work the board has been doing since November, and to inform them of the latest developments.
Michael Tibbetts, vice president of CITA,  speaking via video from the US, told members at Thursday’s meeting, “We don’t have a reopening plan. The March plan has been withdrawn and there is no specific plan or date that has been communicated by government for reopening to visitors.”
Earlier this month, Premier Alden McLaughlin announced that once Cayman had reached a vaccination threshold of 90% of the over-60 population, then the quarantine period for those arriving on island could be reduced from 15 days to 10 days. The premier also indicated that the reopening would be done in a manner similar to the easing of lockdown and shelter-in-place measures – “bit by bit, as we gained confidence in our safety”.
Tibbetts said CITA “would like to know more about the thresholds”, adding that people in the tourism and hospitality industry should become “evangelical” about promoting vaccination. “It is key to getting through this pandemic,” he said.
However, he said that even with widespread vaccinations, there will still be a need for additional COVID testing, contact tracing and enhanced sanitation, and in certain places and situations, requirements to wear masks.
“There is no one magic pill. Vaccinations are not a panacea,” he said.
Tibbetts said Cayman is uniquely placed to operate a safe reopening for visitors, because of strict border controls, wide availability of PCR tests and vaccines, and a contact-tracing app, called OpenUp, that has been developed by a local company.
Langevin told CITA members that Cayman’s effective COVID-free status meant that overseas visitors living daily with masks and social distancing would be even more inclined to visit here than ever before. “Cayman always had a strong sense of well-being and now that has been enhanced,” he said.
The meeting last week was the first in a series of discussions with government, the next of which is scheduled for this week.
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  1. With millions of people being vaccinated every day, one would hope that the islands will open up for vaccinated tourists. Further, that opening up would be without any days in quarantine give a negative PCR test + proof of vaccination. Requiring vaccinated, negative PCR tourists to quarantine will be a deal breaker that sends people to other destinations. A percentage of them will never return.