By Lindsey Turnbull
Minister for Tourism and Transport Kenneth Bryan spoke with Caymanian Times publisher Ralph Lewis this week about his thoughts on current tourism and transport issues.
Travel restrictions lifting
Minister Bryan revealed that government met in Caucus this week and announcements would be made soon on the lifting of some travel restrictions, taking into consideration changes the US had recently made which negated the need for a negative Covid test for entry.
“It’s important for us as a jurisdiction to stay in line with our main source market – the United States is 80% of our visitation - and we can’t be seen as continuing to have these hurdles in the way for the freedom of travel, so we made some decisions that we think the public will be happy,” he advised, adding that he knew many people were calling for mask mandate removals, stopping the need for negative tests for travel to Cayman and to do away with Travel Cayman approval.
The Minister said he would leave announcements on decisions the government had made on this to the Premier.
“We have to continuously monitor the freedom of travel to make sure that we stay ahead of the game from a tourism perspective,” he advised.
Cayman was not doing as well as it could do because travel restrictions put hurdles in the way, with many people who are unvaccinated who want to travel who cannot and many who were worried about being stuck in Cayman if they were to test positive, he said. These hurdles meant our numbers weren’t higher.
The end of the current Covid travel regulations would see substantial changes after 30 June and the announcements to this effect would probably be made early next week.
“As Minister, I am happy with what they are,” he stated.
Cruising regs need review
In respect to cruise tourism arrivals, the Minister said he was glad the numbers continued to climb but that Cayman was still way behind cruse as we were in 2019.
“I think cruise will get back to normal a lot quicker than stayover just due to seasonality,” he said.
But he warned the imminent global recession and cost of living increasing due to oil prices was putting a dent in travel.
“Travel is a luxury you and whenever it’s time to cut costs you cut the luxuries first,” he stated.
Bearing in mind the impact of the Ukraine invasion by Russia, government was expecting 10-15% losses in their projections in tourism arrivals, he said.
One particular concern he had was the mandating of people that they must be vaccinated to come on a cruise ship, he said, stating cruise lines had advised that other countries in the region were becoming more relaxed in that area and were starting to open up their books to allow more and more unvaccinated people to come.
“If we don’t stay with the times, we will be left behind,” he warned.
If other destinations allowed unvaccinated people to travel on their boats, the cruise lines were more likely to choose those destinations over the Cayman Islands because they were able to fill more spots with unvaccinated people wishing to travel, he stated.
The risk levels of unvaccinated people didn’t present the risks they did a year and a half ago, he advised. The economic fallout needed to be seriously considered.
We have to be bold in our decisions and not be left behind because it can economically impact everyone, he said.