In a radio interview on Friday, 3 Sept., Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan addressed fears that a border reopening may represent too big a public health risk, stressing those concerns must be weighed against the ongoing economic impacts of COVID-19.

Speaking on the Cayman Crosstalk show last week, Bryan said health concerns must be balanced against economic consequences, given that there is no end in sight to the pandemic.

Considering tourism sector demands for a border reopening, he said it is hard to tell an industry that represents 20% or more of the economy and employs many Caymanians that their priorities are not important.

Another factor was government’s financial loss caused by the pandemic and the almost complete absence of tourism, he said, noting, “Government continues to lose a lot of money every month.”

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Stipend payments amount to close to $6 million each month and Travel Cayman’s budget until the end of the year is more than $10 million.

Together with other additional salary costs, Bryan said government is spending $10 million per month, or $120 million a year, in response to the pandemic on these items alone.

In addition, there are “other ripple effects” in terms of higher cost of living, lower import duties and no revenue from tourism-related fees, such as airport and cruise passenger taxes.

“We used to make $11 million a year from cruise tourism alone,” the tourism minister said.

If the pandemic was only to last another six months, it would not be a problem to stay closed and incur debt to pay for the costs. But if the world must learn to live with COVID, government cannot sustain itself without the necessary revenue, he added.

The question was now whether Cayman could put enough safety mechanisms in place.

The next phase of government’s reopening plan is set to begin on 9 Sept. when the Open Skies agreement takes effect again, allowing airlines to resume unrestricted travel to the islands.

So far, airlines have not seen many bookings for September, because a five-day quarantine for vaccinated travellers is still in effect.

Bryan said demand will only increase in October when more tourists are expected to come to Cayman. On 14 Oct., the mandatory five-day quarantine for vaccinated travellers is set to be abolished. Unvaccinated travellers, however, will continue to have to quarantine for 14 days.

Bryan said government still has to make the decision on whether phase 5 of the reopening plan will be starting in October because of the prerequisite 80% vaccination target for the population.

“So, we have not finalised that yet… it’s fair to say that there’s a high probability that we will move forward with it. But we have to do that last check of what the science says around the risk levels and make that final decision.”

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8 COMMENTS

  1. Since we know that vaccinated people can carry the covid virus. Bringing in an spreading the virus is the same as a person with no shot. Why would you quarantine one and not the other. This makes no sense . Obviously the test has to be if you have covid and that means you have to quarantine as you need have a waiting period for it to show up.

  2. This government is spending way to much time and energy on re-opening and trying to get back to the “way things were”… to the extent they are now willing to do this at the risk of our lives.

    It is time to accept the new reality, that a tourist dependent economy is one disaster away from being wiped out (as we have repeatedly seen). They should be spending way more time and energy in diversifying the economy away from tourism, and getting tourism down from 20% of our economy to 5%-10%. This can be done, there are industries we can start here, that are needed, but this will take effort and commitment.

    Failure to make this change now will forever keep the economy of these islands at major risk when the next COVID hits, or the next financial crisis comes, or the next hurricane arrives. As the maxim goes failure to plan is a plan for failure. We have had 1.5 years since COVID started to accept this new reality, yet our leader are still stuck trying to chase the glories of the past and trying to preserve what was, rather than building for what can be .

  3. Mr. Bryan fails to point out that the planned opening on October 14 depends on two very tenuous restrictions:
    1. An 80% vaccination rate – which, unless the government plays with the statistics of the recent census – will never be reached.
    2. Vaccination verification. There are hundreds of thousands of vaccinated potential tourists. However they don’t have access to a SMART health card issued by the Common Trust Network. To get one, you have to have received your vaccination from one of the agencies signed up with the Network. Right now, only 3 states in the US are registered. There are many other healthcare providers registered with Common Trust, but unless one of them is yours, you will have to be quarantined for 14 days according to Mr. Bryan. That will certainly restrict tourists from coming to Cayman.

  4. Any quarantine period = not reopening

    No one is going to spend thousands of dollars to be quarantined in Caymans when there are a dozen other islands to go to with a vaccination and a negative PCR test before arrival.

  5. I feel bad for the small companies that made money from tourist. They don’t have a large corporation funding them. As someone who’s family has a small business in Pennsylvania I see the challenges we faced through covid. Sure Cayman can get the people working in IT who can work remotely, but the average tourist that came for a week or on cruise ship and supported the local restaurants, small snorkeling excursions, as well as the shops in town supported small businesses. I really think if Cayman does not open to tourism soon it will consist of wealthy bankers, remote workers and DART!

  6. Someone needs to address the “verified” vaccinations from the US. Most Americans do not have the smart health bar code and can not get a “verified” vaccination thru that system even though US people can pull up their proof of vaccine at a major hospital on the web. This will be a huge loss in US travelers because if one person in the group does not have the” verified” smart health app bar code “all” will have to quarantine 5 days. Visitors will not travel to Cayman for a week only to quarantine 5 days.
    When will this be address????????? Most US Travelers are on hold because of this.

    • There is an alternative to the Smart health card. CLEAR provides a verified health code for additional providers. The system uses facial recognition and then links to a wider number of providers. The system is secure, CLEAR is a system at U.S. AIRPORTS that provides verified entry.