The tourism sector has come to a screeching halt in the Cayman Islands amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The cost of this reality is causing many to now realize that - for most residents and locals - this sector of the Islands’ economy was vastly more important than the more touted and highly lauded financial industry.
Upon closer scrutiny, it is evident that though finance may have brought a great deal of funds to the Islands, much of this money was circulated within a specific range of residents and the clients they serve. What has become evident during the closure of Cayman’s cruise industry and its airport, is that the liquidity brought in from tourism touched every facet of life in the Cayman Islands.
The knock-on effect from the loss of this revenue has meant that taxi operators, who would have needed fuel are not frequenting gas stations, musicians who would have performed at hotels are no longer needed, renters who were working in the industry have left the Islands or find it difficult to pay rent, banks in turn are not receiving revenue for mortgages, airbnb operations are out of pocket, attractions cannot pay staff, tours are not operating and the list goes on.
Tourism was essentially the oil in Cayman’s economic engine and though lawyers and accountants are still quite busy servicing the set-up new financial ‘vehicles’, as vulture capitalists swoon to swoop in and buy up assets that cannot be paid for, the majority of persons who are not in these industries are feeling the pinch more so than ever.
“I was running a water-sports company and one day I could manage to keep my head above water and the next day I couldn’t. Now I cannot afford to pay rent and our landlord has told us that she is not in a position to give us a break. We are considering moving as a result, but this might be a blessing in disguise, as other landlords are now offering much cheaper rents. Even though we will take a hit when we break our lease and loose our deposit, we are going to end up saving in the long run,” noted a popular operator on the Seven Mile Beach.
“Everyone depends on tourism in some way in the Cayman Islands. It is not just a matter of those on the frontline of the industry. The money from this part of the Islands vast economy trickles down to everyone,” he added.
Andre Woodman of come Ride with Us, watersports pointed out that he was 100 percent reliant on the tourist dollar and explained some of the challenges he is now facing.
Right now, I still have to pay for a spot to keep the wave-runners and that is CI$500 a month. I may have to move them eventually and bring all 6 wave-runners and the one banana boat to where I live,” he explained.
“I just went to start them the other day and I realized that due to lack of being in the water and inability to do follow up maintenance and servicing, they are having some issues with the pumps and seizing,” Mr. Woodman remarked.
He said he was lucky and is optimistic about riding out the lockdown because things were going well before it all happened, and he used the savings to pay a few months mortgage.
Another sector that is reeling from the lack of tourists are the purveyors of alcoholic beverages.
Though liquor stores have been deemed as essential services by the Cayman Islands Government, only locals and residents are now frequenting these stores, which has meant that a major source of revenue for these business owners is gone.
“We are open, but business is very slow. Sometimes there is not enough happening to justify staying open, paying staff and all the other concerns but we can at least take care of some expenses,” noted one cashier who spoke to the Caymanian Times.
“Finance has shaped the Cayman Islands into the global mecca that it is today but for residents and locals, tourism is the most crucial of all,” she elaborated.
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24 Sep, 2019
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Darlene Morgan19 Apr, 2020
You need a plan to reopen the island to tourism that follows the opening of the economy in the USA