The Cayman Islands has unveiled its plan for a post-lockdown revival of the tourism industry.
Called The Road Back to 500K (RB5), the plan is a ‘roadmap’ for guiding the territory back to the 500,000 stay-over and cruise visitors recorded in the 2019 season.
The Ministry and Department of Tourism say this "comprehensive strategic tourism reinvention plan is a blueprint for the phased return of tourism as the country moves to a new normal in a post-pandemic world of travel."
Presented by The Hon. Deputy Premier and Minister for Tourism, Moses Kirkconnell, it's described as ‘a strategic pivot from the main tenets of the National Tourism Plan (NTP) 2019 – 2023 which was adopted in February just before the onset of COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic effectively forced Cayman’s tourism operations to cease in March when the borders were closed.
The territory is currently gradually working it way out of a three-month lockdown and now looking at re-opening the borders in September.
The Ministry and Department of Tourism say both the RB5 and the NTP were designed with the same principle goal being ‘to lead tourism effectively, safely, responsibly, and sustainably, now and into the future.’
According to an official statement, “The Cayman Islands tourism industry has faced disruption in various forms throughout its history, from natural disasters, global economic recessions, to global crises; and has proven resiliency which has led recovery and future successes.”
It says “the RB5, developed through extensive collaboration with private sector stakeholders, government partners and in-depth market research, identifies four priority areas that will guide the tourism sector to its return as a major pillar of the Cayman Islands economy.”
The tourism recovery strategy addresses methods to stabilise businesses; create new opportunities for displaced tourism employees; and creates a plan for the next two to three years.
It lists four priorities:
• Reinvent for Readiness: identify current stakeholder challenges and develop the best methodologies to reactivate the tourism sector in an effective and efficient return to be a top pillar of the economy
• Stimulate the Domestic Economy: identify strategies to positively impact the country through domestic tourism as the Cayman Islands transitions through the phases of the COVID-19 crisis to recovery
• Regain Global Market Confidence and Market Share: extensive global marketing and promotions of the best practices and methodologies put in place to ensure the Cayman Islands tourism products and services are operating with the highest safety and sanitation standards for accommodations, events, dive, tours and attractions, transportation, and culinary experiences
• Bolster Future Tourism Sector Employment: this adaptation strategy will develop new definitions of roles within the industry, including the necessary retraining of tourism professionals to adapt to a new way of operating in the tourism market
“The business of tourism is an undeniably strong sector, encompassing a plethora of industries that are directly tourism-based as well as those that feed into the industry through a variety of services,” Mr Kirkconnell said.
“I am confident that the RB5 plan provides the best way forward for a purposefully paced economic recovery that will see the country gradually return to the milestone years of record-breaking stay-over and cruise visitation.”
MORE OPPORTUNITIES FOR CAYMANIANS
According to the Tourism Minister said this will be accomplished in a phased approach that includes creating more opportunities for Caymanians to be part of the tourism industry.
He speaks of "embracing the opportunity to rebalance the workforce from majority work permit holders to having more well-trained and highly qualified Caymanian faces delivering the ‘Caymankind’ customer service we are known for as a Caribbean destination."
According to Mr Kirkconnell, “We have seen the hardship caused for the more than 1,500 Caymanians who have dedicated their lives and livelihoods to this industry, many of whom were faced with unbelievable economic hardships once the difficult decision was made to close our borders.
“It is our responsibility now to drive efforts such as the RB5 and the NTP to deliver the benefits of this exceptionally well-managed and sustainable tourism development plan as a pathway for long term success.”
While led by the Ministry and Department of Tourism, the statement says all stages in the development of RB5 included consultation and collaboration throughout government and private sector “to ensure the plan has the broadest and most comprehensive impact for the people of the Cayman Islands and the tourism community.”
It said this included:
• Sector surveys for domestic economy stakeholder feedback
• Meetings with the accommodation, dive, and attractions sectors
• Meetings with the Cayman Islands Tourism Association and Chamber of Commerce
• Collaborations with the Public Transportation Board and Hotel Licensing Board on recommendations to support the tourism industry
• Developing sanitation guidelines for the tourism sector to safely welcome visitors back
The Ministry and Department of Tourism say with the RB5 (Road Back to 500,000 stay-over visitors) they are focused on “methodically reopening the tourism industry as the borders reopen.”
The RB5 strategy is promoted as providing “a controlled, phased approach, outlining best practices, new protocols and procedures, and critical policy considerations that will guide the Ministry and Department of Tourism, government entities, and all tourism stakeholders to success.”