Cayman Islands Tourism Association President Marc Langevin says that while the tourism industry welcomes the government’s expansion of the types of securely verifiable COVID-19 vaccination records it is now accepting, the process does not go far enough.
On Monday, the government announced that it was now accepting from incoming travellers SMART Health Cards from the US and records from European countries that meet the ‘EU Digital COVID Certificate’ standard which shows vaccination information. Travellers who present those documents can avail of a five-day quarantine upon arrival here, rather than the 10-day isolation for those with vaccination certificates from other places, or the 14-day quarantine for unvaccinated travellers.
Langevin said while expanding the list was a step in the right direction, it did not provide travellers or Cayman’s tourism businesses with any reassurance about how the government plans to proceed with accepting vaccination certificates from other locations.
“Not everyone who wants to come here is from Louisiana or California or got their vaccinations at Walmart, or Sam’s Club, or CVS,” Langevin said in an interview with the Compass on Tuesday. “What if they got it somewhere else? It is a small step, but we’re not seeing the total scope [of the government’s plan].”
He added, “It does not give us, or travel agents, a level of confidence of where we will be in the future. It is a small piece of the puzzle but we don’t see the whole game. Will there be another 10 states or organisations accepted next week? Who knows? We are left in the dark and trying to guess where we will be in September or October or later. We need more information so we can convey that information to our business partners – the travel agents, the meeting planners, our direct customers.”
Since 23 June, for the purposes of the five-day quarantine, Cayman has only been accepting vaccination certificates or cards issued by the local Health Services Authority or the UK’s National Health Service. From Friday, 23 July, that list was expanded to:
- Issuers who use SMART Health Cards and are a part of the CommonTrust Network. This includes North American issuers, such as:
- Walmart Pharmacy
- Sam’s Club Pharmacy
- State of California
- State of Louisiana
- UC San Diego Health
- CVS Health
- UC Health
- Vaccination records from the European Union Member States and other countries that meet the EU Digital COVID Certificate standard.
In a statement, the government said it anticipates that the approved list will grow as other vaccination issuers develop ways to produce securely verifiable vaccination records.
Currently, incoming travellers must obtain permission from Travel Cayman before they can fly to Cayman. Langevin has suggested that Cayman could use that avenue as a means of getting vaccination documentation verified before the passengers even get on the plane.
“Maybe we could create a system for Travel Cayman to do the validation of the certificates,” he said. “It happens in other destinations… you upload your certificate and they check it before you arrive and say if it is acceptable or not. So, basically, you’re reversing the process.
“Why not ask potential visitors to provide the vaccination documentation and see how you can validate it. … Everything should be done prior to arriving so that the experience is very painless.”
Concerns with government’s reopening plan
CITA has previously complained that it was not consulted by government in relation to Cayman’s reopening plan, which was announced by Premier Wayne Panton at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon earlier this month. In an interview with the Compass Tuesday, Langevin reiterated that he believes CITA’s expertise and knowledge could be of benefit to Cayman’s decision-makers when it comes to the timing of and procedures for allowing tourists to return to the islands.
“I understand there is a process for everything,” he said, “but at least, get us involved so we can share our views about getting to the next target, and how to make it easier for customers. Yes, there are a lot of logistics involved, but we’re not privy to the conversations that are going on. We’ve been working with government on the Caymanian employment drive and have made great progress, … but from a remobilisation and recovery point of view, we have not been consulted.”
Members of CITA will get to put their views and questions about the new list and the government’s border-reopening plan to officials at a meeting of the association’s membership on Thursday. Langevin said Panton, Deputy Premier Chris Saunders and Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan are expected to attend.