Cayman does not require a tourism czar at present but a government-led collaborative effort to further relax the remaining COVID-19 regulations and restore the industry to growth.
The point is made by Marc Langevin, president of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA) and general manager of the Ritz-Carlton during an appearance on the new Caymanian Times multi-platform programme Cayman Conversations with Ralph Lewis.
In a wide-ranging discussion looking at various aspects of issues impacting the sector, Mr Langevin expressed concern about the continuing challenges facing Cayman’s return to the 2019 pre-Covid levels of visitors and tourism business activity.
In his view, the destination risks being stifled by overcautiousness with the remaining Covid regulations which he worries could inadvertently undermine tourism and economic recovery.
“It’s got to be ensuring that we put our best foot forward and we create the business whether that’s going to allow anybody to think but now we get to look at the bigger picture. When I talk to different politicians I believe there is a certain expectation from everybody in the business that we will be back to a certain level. It’s not going to be 100 per cent but I truly believe that we could be to the 80-90 per cent depending on the industry, Mr Langevin said.
But he added: “I’m not hearing ‘let’s do it!’”
According to the CITA president, the ripple effect of tourism throughout the economy and society requires now a more focused and dynamic response especially from government to revitalise the industry.
“I think we have shown in the last two years that tourism is not just narrow, it’s very broad. It’s an industry that might only represent 25 per cent of the finances of the island and the government, but the reality is a much deeper ramification in the society and especially (for the) small entrepreneurs, families and so on.”
It is for that reason, the CITA president said that a collaborative approach is needed to speed-up the recovery.
“It’s not that we need a czar. That is the government and what they are paid for. But it’s the leadership that I would like to see apply the decision to bring the island back to its best. So it has to have a collaborative approach because everybody has a part; the Minister (of finance), the tourism department has to be aligned, the commerce has to be in line, health has to be in line and education has to be in line. The same way that it was done last year, let’s do it again. Let’s get everybody working together, believe in that vision and make it happen.”
Known for his insightful observations of trends in the sector, Mr Langevin also noted that despite Cayman’s enduring attraction as a preferred tourist destination, other islands which opened earlier, have forged ahead with their economic recovery efforts - even though some had suffered some setbacks in some instances for moving too quickly.
“A lot of other destinations are really making their regulations a lot easier..but we are still one of the hardest right now. I can tell you there are some people who, just the fact that they have to fill out the form, they stop. They don’t even want to go through it because for them it’s too complicated already.”
While Cayman has been credited for its robust response to the pandemic, especially with its vaccination programme, Mr Langevin however feels that some of the current remaining regulations, especially for travellers, need to be reviewed.
He urges a reassessment of the balance between business risks and health risks at this stage of the pandemic.
“There is always a risk that when you start to open more…and my argument is that we have done everything to prepare for that. I think we need to shift the conversation from what is the health risk to the population to what is the economic risk to the businesses, and then businesses make decisions based on that, not the government,” the CITA president suggested.
“I think now we need to also evolve with regulations and letting the citizen make (more of) the decision…We need to move from those regulations and just like the rest of the world, learn how to manage our own expectations.”
Cayman Conversations with Ralph Lewis is aired Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1pm on BOBO 89.1FM (Cayman’s community station).
You can also listen back to this and upcoming editions of Cayman Conversations on the Caymanian Times Facebook page and YouTube channel where you can also follow the live stream on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1pm.
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