The requirement to present a QR code in order to demonstrate an arriving passenger has been verifiably vaccinated could soon be off the table for those travelling to Cayman, according to Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan.
Speaking on Wednesday’s episode of the Compass’ weekly show ‘The Resh Hour’ Bryan made the announcement of a potential U-turn on that policy, adding “government is considering not making that a mandatory requirement moving forward, as we have seen the risk [of forgeries] associated with that mandatory element is very, very small, compared to the reward”.
He cited tourism arrival statistics from Cayman’s “best year” where half a million visitors came to the Islands and added “studies show probably less than 1% of persons would ever go as far as forging documents, particularly from key destinations. And even if you got a person to do that, the probabilities of that person having COVID is even smaller”.
He proposed increasing the fines and penalties should a person be caught trying to enter Cayman with a forged vaccination document. He also suggested a potential policy of restricting “certain jurisdictions”.
Cayman Islands Tourism Association president Marc Langevin received this news with what he described as an “explosion of joy”.
Langevin explained, while the concept of a “common pass” was sound, the reality was the idea was not being adopted by key markets.
“We saw our business absolutely destroyed because of that,” Langevin said.
Full border-reopening announcement ‘close’
Bryan also said government was getting “closer and closer and closer” towards announcing a concrete date for removing the requirement for arrivals to quarantine, effectively fully reopening Cayman to global tourism.
Langevin said he believes the tourism sector and government share the desire “to achieve an opening before the year end”.
Acknowledging government’s halted border-reopening plan had undermined confidence in the jurisdiction, Langevin stated they were seeking a “credible” date, which they felt comfortable to share with their stakeholders, as well as from a business preparedness perspective.
Looking ahead to that future, Bryan also announced the imminent arrival of a Jet Blue flight incoming from New York’s JFK airport on Saturday.
“It’ll be the first commercial flight outside of Cayman Airways and British Airways that has been flying recently,” Bryan stated, adding: “They’re showing their commitment to the Cayman Islands to show they’re going to do it in a hard time [with quarantine remaining in place]”.
The tourism minister also stated government was inching “closer and closer” to bringing cruise ships back to the island. He hinted a potential solution for cruise lines wishing to restart their Cayman itinerary, would be if the jurisdiction was listed as the first port of call, for vaccinated passengers who have tested negative prior to departure. He also proposed the use of lateral flow tests before visitors disembark.
When asked if this was a chance to seek fewer ships, with a higher spending clientele, Bryan noted “I don’t think this is the opportunity now to remodel or restructure the cruise industry. I think we need to get it back and then we can slowly adjust”.
The minister also looked ahead to an expected press conference Thursday afternoon, in which he said an announcement would be forthcoming with regards to mandatory vaccinations.