COVID-19 IMPACTS AND UPDATES:
Cayman locals “back to business” while waiting for borders to reopen
While millions of people around the world are still struggling to structure their daily lives around strict mask-wearing and social distancing protocols, along with the continued closure of public venues like theaters, cinemas, recreation centers and sports arenas, residents of the Cayman Islands have already been enjoying the perks of their island paradise without the need for protective gear.
Moreover, groups can move around and assemble freely within the reasonable numbers enforced by government. Majority of island activities have resumed and it’s been business as usual for the many local and offshore companies that operate in the islands.
Basically, the Cayman populace has been largely enjoying a life is mainly unrestricted and safe from coronavirus – something innumerable citizens in high-risk places around the world are still dreaming about.
Make no mistake, however, it has taken a lot of forward planning and uncompromising determination, even necessary losses, to arrive at this enviable status.
As expected, the immediate shutdown of the country’s borders to protect its inhabitants came at a steep price, particularly to the local tourism sector and allied industries such as real estate development.
Award-winning COVID-19 response measures
The Cayman Islands entered 2020 expecting to match — or even surpass — the record-breaking numbers of visitor arrivals the previous year.
Over two million international tourists were welcomed in the islands in 2019, igniting an unprecedented spate of media coverage and brisk business for local entrepreneurs, especially as the islands swept every major award given to the best island destinations in the world.
With the outbreak of the pandemic, however, the government immediately closed down the country’s borders and mandated a 14-day quarantine for the very limited inbound arrivals, basically shutting down the islands to short-stay tourists. Strict health and community safety protocols were also imposed on residents and long-term visitors who have opted to stay put.
A year later, many global health experts have considered as exemplary how the swift and efficient crisis response from the government helped keep Cayman Islands virtually COVID-free — with the country consistently maintaining a “Level 1” or Low Level status and zero community transmission since the previous summer.
Moreover, in appreciation of its well-managed operations, the Cayman Islands Field Hospital Project for COVID-19 received the 2020 Social Project of the Year Award from the Association for Project Management (APM) which is based in the UK.
Industry leaders remain optimistic
The sustained containment of coronavirus cases, as well as the ongoing vaccination rollout, have given leaders of heavily affected industries, such as tourism and realty development, much reason to be optimistic.
The Cayman Compass reports that the Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA) is hoping to recover at least 50% of the usual visitor arrivalsby summer and 75% by the time high-season begins towards the end of the year.
To attain this, CITA president Marc Langevin urged government to urgently prioritize a low-risk reopeningas a precursor to attaining a “reasonable level of business in 2021.”
“With the introduction of the vaccine, combined with additional layered protocols for testing, tracing and monitoring measures, risks can be mitigated for the general public and stay-over visitations resume without compromising our enviable quality of life,” he said.
Meanwhile, in an interview with the New York Times, CIREBA board member and ERA Cayman Islands broker Jeanette Totten said that the value of residential property in the Cayman Islands continues to rise despite the pandemic.
She described the local real estate situation as being in a “holding pattern” as it stays within the established upward trend.
“We were expecting a big increase when all this hit,” she said. “We were really going gangbusters for the last two years. Prices were continuing to go up and up and up.”
For now, the islands’ typically affluent homeowners are holding firm. “They’re riding out the pandemic storm,” she observed. “So prices haven’t dropped.”
Restrictions in inbound arrivals to the Cayman have posed unprecedented challenges to the real estate and property development sectors because almost 70% of residential buyers are foreigners.
However, as the Cayman Islands continue to establish itself as one of the safest places in the world during the pandemic, industry leaders are confident that both tourists and potential long-term residents will welcome its reopening with unbridled enthusiasm.
After all, there aren’t many places in the world right now where one can enjoy all the luxuries of modern living while safely cocooned in an island paradise that is not only tax-free, but also COVID-free!