Caymanian business leaders and concerned citizens want tourism sector open

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Kel Thompson (left) and Michael Tibbetts

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands (CNS) – A campaign to open the tourism sector has stepped up its advocacy with a slick new website. Reopen Cayman, “a group of Caymanian business leaders and concerned citizens”, said it wants to open tourism using resort bubbles. Despite the worldwide surge in COVID-19, an increase here in travellers arriving with the virus and a number of worrying quarantine breaches, the campaign claims it has a “safe plan” for allowing tourists in.

The campaign comes against the backdrop of the US recording more than 238,000 new cases of the virus over the weekend, while the UK logged more than 27,000 and Canada over 11,000. Both US and UK health experts warn of further surges in numbers as a result of the cooler weather in the north pushing people indoors, as well as the upcoming holiday season’s family gatherings.

Nevertheless, the campaign, which according to the website has been started by Kel Thompson of Thompson Resorts and Michael Tibbetts of Clearly Cayman Resorts, is calling for Cayman to use testing in order to allow visitors to come back immediately. Reopen Cayman also appears to be supported by the Chamber of Commerce and the owners of the larger resorts and villas.

However, on the site the campaigners claim to be “motivated by a desire to help the many Caymanians who are struggling but have not had their voices heard”.

While some hotel managers have been vocal about their desire to open up, public opinion is not yet broadly in favour or re-opening to tourism, given that Cayman is keeping the virus at bay, with no community spread for several months.

In addition to concerns that an outbreak could cost lives, there are worries that it would also drive the country back into full lockdown, threatening the broader economic stability that the lack of community spread has allowed internally, supported by the pension cash windfall.

Worried that the tourism sector cannot survive until a vaccine is widely available and the community immunized, the campaign is pressing the economic argument and a plan to open safely.

Despite the surge in cases in every island that reopened to tourism, the campaigners call for rigorous testing, including pre-arrival, on arrival and four days post-arrival, isolation in resort bubbles with geo-fencing, and high levels of health and safety protocols regarding staff catering to the resorts.

The website also states that the survival rates have improved with new therapies, suggesting that they do not believe contracting the virus is as dangerous as it once was. However, there is mounting evidence that while more people are living through the virus, they are suffering long and lingering after-effects and complications.

So far the government has resisted pressure from the tourism owners, given the risks that remain even under the tightest conditions. While PPE, social distancing and hygiene protocols help undermine transmission, they do not eliminate it. It only takes one traveller to pass on COVID to a staff member who remains asymptomatic between tests and carries the virus home.

Testing is a critical element of managing the pandemic but the nature of the virus means a person can test negative even after contracting it, remain asymptomatic and pass it on.

However, given the economic concerns of some tourism stakeholders, the campaigners said that there are ways to open safely. “There are multiple paths forward to reopen the Cayman Islands to stayover visitors. We’ll need to take a step at a time, but a coordinated plan is required,” they add.

Republished with permission of Cayman News Service

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