The Ministry of Tourism has announced that it is developing “a multifaceted three-year strategic plan” to guide the country’s tourism industry out of the stagnation caused by COVID-19.
Tourism which accounts for 20% of GDP of the Cayman Islands has suffered a severe setback due to COVID-19, especially the cruise sector.
“The recovery of the Cayman Islands tourism industry and return as a top pillar of the economy is the highest priority,” the ministry says in a statement, outlining what it describes as “a blueprint for success through the next phases of the COVID-19 crisis and the years to come.”
Although no firm date has yet been set for the reopening of the borders which closed in March, the government is banking on slowly returning to tourism to cushion the crippling effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the local economy.
Employment is a main area of concern with a focus on the gradual return of visitors - albeit less than 20% of normal high season visitor levels - beginning in the last quarter of 2020.
The three-year strategic tourism recovery plan which is still in the development stage, which will focus on four key points, is being developed in alignment with the gradual unlocking of the economy.
Under a heading of Reinvention for Readiness, it says it intends to identify the challenges faced by the sector and “develop the best methodologies to reactivate the tourism sector in an effective and efficient return to be a top pillar of the economy.”
A key area in bringing tourism back online will be the Domestic Economy, a point previously mentioned by Mr Kirconnell, especially regarding ‘staycations’ on the Sister Islands as the lockdown loosens.
Regarding the wider Global Economy, the plan will include extensive marketing and promotion with a focus it says on the`highest safety and sanitation standards local tourism properties and activities.
With the sector a major source of employment, the ministry says “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.”
Minister of Tourism, Hon. Moses Kirkconnell is quoted as saying:
“As a strong pillar of our economy that contributes highly to our GDP, it is imperative to implement a strategic plan that will restore our tourism industry in the medium and long term and propel our Caymanian tourism employees back into the workplace safely.”
The tourism ministry says “since the closure of borders in March, it has been in collaboration with key stakeholders in government and the tourism community addressing the challenges currently facing the industry, as well as finding solutions for what lays ahead.”
It also says the Department of Tourism (DOT) has conducted extensive stakeholder outreach and implemented programmes specific to industry needs in the early stages of this crisis.
That included includes surveys, the online PRIDE training, meeting with industry associations, business interests and governments agencies linked to the tourism industry.
The DOT also says it has been working on a Needs Registry development for Caymanian tourism workers.
With even more industry attention on health standards as a result of COVID-19 both at the local and global level, the DOT reports that it has been working on developing further sanitation guidelines for the tourism sector.
Saying the plan is crucial to the recovery of the sector, Tourism Minister Kirkconnell revealed that his team has been working with well-known local economist Paul Byles, founder and director of FTS in developing it.
“We look forward to continued stakeholder engagement to receive their valuable insights and expertise to this holistic recovery plan.
“Together we will engage with the sector to ensure that new policies and safety measures are in place to ensure that our guests know we are ready to welcome them back,” Mr Kirkconnell said.
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