By staff writer
The Reopen Cayman campaign is looking forward to the reopening of the borders on 20 November. But that optimism is tempered by a note of caution that it could take a while before business returns to anything equating pre-pandemic levels.
This was conveyed on the most recent edition of The Panel programme by the Caymanian Times, with featured guests from Reopen Cayman: campaign organisers Woody Foster of Foster’s supermarkets; Mike Gibbs - President of the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce; and Marc Langevin - President of the Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA) and General Manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.
The 20 November reopening, however, comes at a time when Cayman is experiencing a worrying and persistent surge in Covid-19 cases.
Reopen Cayman’s Woody Foster endorsed the decision to proceed with the reopening at this stage.
“We believe that as a country we've done a great deal in putting Cayman into a place to reopen safely…And I think the government has been proactive in trying to find the right time to open and also put the country in a place to where we're in the best possible light in which to do so.”
He doesn’t feel there’s an immediate need for further restrictions.
Addressing an issue of staff shortages caused by workers having to go into isolation with their household, he said the provision of lateral flow tests has made the situation more manageable.
“Having the lateral flow test has made it much easier because if it was prior to the lateral flow test to where people then had to stay at home because somebody else was positive, that would have been catastrophic.”
Meanwhile, CITA President Marc Langevin feels that while tourists are not expected to return in droves in the short term, there is a core group of visitors, mainly property owners, who are still keen to visit.
“So, it's going to be a very limited audience. The way we are seeing is probably somewhere around 10 to 20%, if we are lucky,” he said.
But the Ritz-Carlton boss is expecting an uplift in arrivals for the US President’s Day holiday in February and the spring break period between March and April.
He also thinks the recent decision by the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) to place Cayman in a higher category of concern over Covid-19, would most likely have an insignificant impact here.
He also cited the cancellation of bookings from the previously announced opening for 14 October which was delayed when the current outbreak started.
“Another reason that we need to start to talk about is obviously remediation of stuff. But that's another subject for another show,” he intimated.
Mr Langevin said the CITA has been in constant dialogue with the government on a detailed plan of action for the reopening and adapting to changing circumstances.
One of the recurring issues surrounding the reopening is jobs for Cayman in the tourism and other industries and business survival in the new environment.
Chamber of Commerce President Mike Gibbs reported that they are currently running a series of webinars and training events for business owners.
At the same time, he urged workers to take advantage of opportunities to upgrade their skills or to re-skill.
“Take the opportunities. There are opportunities out there, upskill yourselves and move up the ladder. There's lots of opportunities.”
Mr Gibbs also had these words of advice for workers who have been relying on the government’s interim Covid-19 stipend.
“They need to take responsibility for finding something because government is not going to pay the stipend forever. It’s going to stop very soon and, once we open, I think there's a lot of people who are going to suddenly realise ‘now what do I do?’ And I think we need people to start thinking about that now.”