Cayman is positioning itself to make a big push into the rapidly growing emerging tourism sector of global remote working when the tourism industry fully reopens.
Hon. Minister for Tourism and Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell has disclosed the territory’s entry into the sub-sector as part of revised tourism strategy in response to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Global remote working is already attracting huge interest by many countries with adjustments being made to their immigration laws to attract high-net-worth tourists for prolonged visits.
“For the next 3-6 months, the focus will centre on creating promotional initiatives designed to attract higher net worth guests and reintroduce tourism at the appropriate time. One of those initiatives will be a “Global Citizen Program,” Mr Kirkconnll announced in a presentation during last week’s Chamber of Commerce Economics Forum.
“We are pursuing the opportunity to welcome business executives, entrepreneurs and students who can work remotely in a stunning and worry-free environment as they work and manage their business from offshore.
“This will allow a productive work environment and a luxurious island lifestyle,” he said.
The global remote working concept has already seen considerable interest by a number of countries including Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados which are now including it as a key component of their tourism offer.
The Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley recently made the rounds of the international media circuit with a series of high-profile appearances on several major media networks promoting her country’s brand of the scheme, which they are calling the Barbados Welcome Mat.
For the Cayman Islands, it will be promoted as the Global Citizen Program.
It is being developed to attract the high-net-worth traveller and professional market, a prime demographic target for Cayman, as plans evolve for a phased reopening of borders - and the key tourism sector.
Expanding on the concept, Director of Tourism Rosa Harris said Cayman already has legislation in place along similar lines which can be adapted to accommodate the new scheme.
“Cayman Islands has always been forward-thinking,” she said referring to changes to the Immigration Law dating back to 2014 which now position the jurisdiction to capitalise on this trend.
“If you are here for six months your gainful employment activity has to take place outside of the jurisdiction,” she explained, adding that, “it’s on this basis that Government has decided to develop the remote working and visitor programme called Global Citizen.”
Mrs Harris said the Department of Tourism which she heads, along with the Ministry of Employment and Border Control are currently looking at that legislation with a view to streamlining the application process to enable longer-stay visitors to register under the Global Citizen scheme.
“This program we feel will be very lucrative to allow all of the businesses that thrive on volume (such as ships and restaurants and other visitor activities) to allow for persons to be successful and have business as we recover and manoeuvre through COVID-19,” she said.
Meanwhile, in Barbados, the government has had to address questions which have been raised about its Welcome Mat remote working scheme following the spate of promotional interviews by Prime Minister Mottley.
International gay rights campaigners claim its discriminatory as the laws in Barbados only recognise marriage between people of the opposite sex.
The Mia Mottley administration has been moving to expedite a version of a domestic partnership law but has run into opposition locally over consultation as well as concerns based on issues of religious beliefs and culture.
Cayman is in the process of having its Domestic Partnership Law enacted by decree under the Reserve Powers of the Governor in a turbulent debate over same-sex marriage and similar spousal unions.
The remote working scheme is part of a revised tourism strategy being fine-tuned to market Cayman given the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Cayman Islands marketing strategy for the foreseeable future will therefore look closely at our source markets (the US and Canada) with the understanding that it will be more expensive for travellers to afford a vacation in the Cayman Islands,” Minister of Tourism Moses Kirkconnell had outlined.
“The travellers we market to will need to fall within a particular income bracket or have a minimum net worth in order to comfortably visit and enjoy what our islands have to offer.”
With the Global Citizen scheme now being developed, the President of the Chamber of Commerce, Woody Foster had said during his presentation to the Economic Forum that “at this stage, the economic recovery within this sector has become a great challenge.”
“We must find a prudent, safe way to bring in long term residents, long term tourists/workers etc so that we can introduce new money into the economy. Staycations and the financial sector cannot sustain the country for too much longer.”
The COVID-19 pandemic hit as Cayman was on the cusp of a record-breaking tourism year.
Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell had reported that “in December 2019 the Cayman Islands recorded its highest tourism arrivals in history, crossing the coveted 500,000 threshold in stayover visitor arrivals.
“The industry was booming, workers were earning steady income and 5% tourism growth was forecast for 2020. Simply put 150 days ago we were on our way to the best year of tourism in the history of the Cayman Islands,” he told the Chamber’s Economic Forum.
Tourism which has been accounting for around a quarter of Cayman’s GDP has been on a growth trajectory.
Between 2015 and 2019 the sector was growing at an average of 9.7% each year, often outpacing regional forecasts, with the average daily hotel rate being one of the highest in the region.
“Here in Cayman, tourism is not just a pillar to the economy; it is a strategic economic driver for government,” Mr Kirkconnell had outlined.