Most of the islands in the Caribbean have reopened their borders to US visitors. Some destinations only allow vaccinated travelers to enter, but all but the Dominican Republic require pre-arrival and some post-arrival Covid testing.
The Cayman Islands are an exception. Its borders have been closed to most travelers since March 2020.
When will Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman reopen to recreational travelers?
I spoke to Kenneth Bryan, the newly appointed Minister of Tourism and Transport following the recent election, to find out the strategy behind the reopening plans.
Kenneth Bryan, Minister for Tourism and Transport, Cayman Islands
“We aim for a 75% to 80% vaccination rate for our citizens. That has been our goal all along, but the closer we get to that goal, the harder it seems to be to get there,” said Bryan.
By mid-August, approximately 68% of the eligible population of 66,000 had received two doses of the vaccines.
Bryan sees September 30th as the date everyone in the Caymans will be eligible to get their last dose of vaccine.
Cash incentives, raffles, public service announcements, and campaigns have been used to vaccinate islanders, business owners, and tour operators.
The Cayman Islands have had a very strict reopening policy all along. While other Caribbean countries reopened months ago only to have to temporarily close again in some cases due to a surge in Covid, the Caymans have taken a gradual reopening approach.
“Some islands pulled too fast and had to go back,” said Bryan. “The Cayman Islands Government and Ministry of Tourism have developed a five-phase plan to ensure a safe and healthy experience for those in the industry and our visitors.
“We want to be the only country that does not have to close once it has fully reopened.”
The first two phases ran from June to mid-August and allowed entry for certain categories of securely verified travelers – home and villa owners, business owners, health professionals, repatriated workers – subject to entry permits, documentation and quarantine regulations.
A remote work and stay program was launched late last year, subject to approval of a rigorous limited stay application.
Phase 3, slated to begin on September 9, will lift some of the quarantine restrictions for those arriving on repatriation flights.
Phase 4, which begins October 14th, will open the borders to all securely verified, fully vaccinated adult travelers. Unvaccinated visitors must apply for entry via the Travel Cayman portal and be quarantined for 14 days upon arrival. All travelers must report their travel and vaccination status on the portal.
“We met with American Airlines and United and they have expressed an interest in resuming their flight schedules here. They don’t see any demand yet, but have tentatively decided to resume air traffic in October, ”said Bryan.
The safety, health and wellbeing of the people of the Cayman Islands remain the government’s top priority for the reopening, according to Bryan.
The October appointment is for adult travelers who are verified and fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated travelers are subject to a 14-day quarantine, but both categories must apply through the Travel Cayman Portal, provide a Covid-19 PCR test result performed 72 hours prior to arrival, and provide evidence of health insurance that provides coverage for Covid-19.
Phase 5, which begins November 18, allows unvaccinated children under the age of 12 to travel with vaccinated family members without the need for a quarantine period. Unvaccinated travelers over the age of 12 must be quarantined for 14 days.
“The time between each of these phases will allow us to iron out the kinks. At all phases, public health officials will monitor the prevalence and spread of Covid,” said Bryan, adding that myriad factors determine the transition between phases will .
When the country has completed all five phases, and after a thorough evaluation by the government and health officials, the Cayman Islands plan to celebrate their grand reopening on January 27th and welcome all travelers with no quarantine or travel restrictions. At that point, cruise tourism could resume, according to Bryan.