‘Resort bubble’ concept not an easy answer

| 22/09/2020 | 96 Comments
Cayman News Service
Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman

(CNS): The idea of ‘resort bubbles’, which was floated as a way of kick-starting a post-COVID return to tourism by some hotels in the Cayman Islands, poses many challenges that even those suggesting the concept cannot answer. The idea is to have visitors in sealed bubbles in hotels that would operate as all-inclusive resorts and keep the guests confined to the hotel grounds. The main problem is the inevitable interaction with staff.

Premier Alden McLaughlin said that some of the representatives of the tourism sector had met with government last week to talk about the idea but he said there were some serious difficulties. It is understood that the idea is being promoted by the Ritz, the Westin and a small boutique hotel company, Clearly Cayman, which owns resorts on all three islands.

Speaking at the COVID-19 press briefing on Friday, McLaughlin outlined the challenges with the idea. “This is a really, really difficult area and… even the hoteliers themselves are finding it very, very difficult as to how a resort bubble would actually work safely,” he said. “All of us are struggling and no where in the world has successfully done this.”

The premier pointed out that the main challenge was dealing with staff who have to come into and out of the bubble. He said guests might be in a bubble but staff will leave work and go to stores, gas stations, bars and back to their families as they live their normal lives. He said it would mean that hospitality workers would need to be treated like medical staff, with that level of protective equipment and protocols.

“I’m not saying its impossible, but it is proving very difficult to work through,” he said, as he spoke about the ongoing discussions.

In addition to the inherent problems with the staff and other threats to burst the bubble, the idea has been criticised because of the level of risk it presents weighed against the level of benefit to the local economy, compared to a broader and more tightly controlled return of guests using testing, isolation technology, social distancing and mandated masks.

CNS asked the premier about the benefit of opening hotel bubbles, where local levels of employment are still lower than in other parts of the tourism sector. McLaughlin responded by saying that the hotels do employ some local staff.

“These hotels are continuing to pay staff and incur significant operational costs,” he said. “We are facing the possibility of another mass exodus of people from here if the hotels shut down, as well as a continued loss of massive revenue from the hotels. At some point we are going to have to make some really hard decisions.”

He said the government was in good shape for perhaps another year, but people have to work and people are earning less than they were. There is also less spend in the broader economy and we face the situation where we could run out of money. The premier said that the Cayman Islands must find ways to bring people back here to spend money in the economy and the current situation could not continue indefinitely.

Finance Minister Roy McTaggart noted that one benefit would be the 13% accommodation tax that government gets from each visitor, and Health Minister Dwayne Seymour said that around 500 Caymanians had signed up at a recent tourism job fair looking for work at these hotels.

Nevertheless, visitors staying in a resort bubble would not be hiring cars, drinking in bars, eating in restaurants, visiting attractions, going on trips or spending money in shops. There are also questions surrounding their presence on the beach or even in the sea.

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Category: Business, Tourism

Comments (96)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The results of the government’s inaction are being felt today and will continue. Cuts in the Civil Service will inevitably follow.

    • Anonymous says:

      Exactly! Nobody is safe.

      CS workers – do not be apathetic. Remember to always speak up or forever hold your peace.

  2. Gray Matter says:

    Pick up the phone and call the King of Tourism GORDEN STEWART “ BUTCH” ( Sandals and Beaches) this is a man that can give you solutions.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Compass is promoting another bio-button. When enough is enough? When inventors and developers invent or develop something useful?
    Some devices that ARE NOT PLACE ON HUMAN BODIES that warn people that level of toxins in air has reached dangerous level for example? Every Grand Cayman resident needs one.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Not sure this government has a clue of what they want to do and agreeing to a “bubble” concept by the Hotels is just plain stupid. Not to mention you also have condominiums that are sitting vacant so are they going to “bubble” them too? Caymanians mostly work in the condominiums so all aspects of tourism would need to be considered (water sports, taxis, restaurants etc.) so lets stop being selfish and find a way to open up the boarders with the understanding that we will have cases, it is just how life is going to be. Unfortunately, a vaccine may not help everyone and who knows how long it will take to get people vaccinated if they want it. What about those that don’t? We are all living in a “bubble” now but reality is that we will all have to face the fact that this virus might be here for several years and this island cannot be shut down forever! Other countries have opened and yes the numbers spiked but everyone needs to remember that numbers will spike with testing. Everyone will have to just follow order with wearing a mask, washing hands etc. until the vaccine or cure (medication) is available. So in order not to destroy our economy and the livelihood of many people here on our island we must open up carefully and diligently. Tourist must test before coming and again once here after XX day, any symptoms then quarantined them at one of the gov’t facilities at their expense (agreement before coming).

    • Anonymous says:

      The private sector is simply not capable of developing these complex strategies. Simply because they are in the business of making money at all costs.

      Don’t worry CIG will continue to make us the safest country in the world.

  5. Anonymous says:

    If we could get a Hedonism going here , I’d move out of my house permanently.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Who comes up with these ideas!?

    The hard truth is the government has no plan.

    No retraining of the unemployed to take up new roles in the finance sector and construction.

    No plan for helping Caymanians who are in the process of losing their homes due to unemployment or loss of business.

    No educational grants to allow Caymanians that want to learn new skills to be able to do so while unemployed.

    Gov. is still operating civil servants at full pay.

    NAU is still not able to manage or even help most of the people that really need it.

    Gov. had a useless job fair for tourism… I don’t even understand this one!

    If we don’t start protesting soon things are going to get way worst long before they even start to get better.

    • Anonymous says:

      100% correct.

      I would guess in another month or two – hotels, condos, resorts are going to start shutting down their cable, internet, and telephones. I don’t know how many individual rooms that could be but I bet it will be around 1000.

      Drastic cuts to staff will be next as anticipating what the CIG is going to will not fit in any business plan currently. We can only guess and with news that the CIG has enough funds to go another year – I am not betting anything will change in the next 6 months.

      However, it is apparent that:

      1. No vaccine – no opening
      2. Until the CIG runs out of money there will be no decision
      3. The construction industry is going to be making plans for jobs next year very soon. Investors are likely getting nervous about starting any new projects.

      • Anonymous says:

        I love that I can “unlike” my vote.

        I liked it before I reached
        “However, it is apparent that:
        1. No vaccine – no opening”

        Vaccine is not only not going to be developed, but it is not needed. 99% of Earth’s population is just fine.

        But I am OK if someone wants it and will get vaccinated.

    • Anonymous says:

      Cut the civil service pay and the private sector will feel it too through reduced cash flow. Any cuts would be offset by a loss of duties through sold goods too.

      Hilarious watching private sector people beg to cut pay for civil service thinking they aren’t shooting themselves in the foot.

  7. Sad says:

    RIP Cayman.

  8. Stargazer says:

    Terrible idea. No doubt from people who are only looking at their bottom line. Same people probably rent housing to their staff so it would be win win for them.

    • Autonomous says:

      You have no idea what you’re talking about, so passing off anti-business conjecture as informed opinion is irresponsible and dangerous.
      The plan would have necessitated housing staff on property, but the idea that they would be charged rent is ludicrous.
      Note I say “would have” as the plan is dead on the water anyway.

  9. Anonymous says:

    “These hotels are continuing to pay staff and incur significant operational costs,” he said. “We are facing the possibility of another mass exodus of people from here if the hotels shut down, as well as a continued loss of massive revenue from the hotels. At some point we are going to have to make some really hard decisions.”

    Everyone has had to make some really hard decisions. You know – everyone that doesn’t work for CIG.

    Here is the question: At what point will CIG make a hard decision? After the mass exodus? After the vaccine arrives? After the vaccine only works in 70% of people? After the election in May?

    • Anonymous says:

      Question: “At what point will CIG make a hard decision?”
      Answer: “Never!”
      CIG doesn’t cut back on anything concerning themselves.

  10. Anonymous says:

    The premier said that the Cayman Islands must find ways to bring people back here to spend money in the economy and the current situation could not continue indefinitely. However right now they are too busy making sure gays are appropriately hated, expats are made to leave, and that there is enough money loaned to them to keep government workers(voters)paid until after all private enterprise fails. This is their plan. It’s working great.

  11. Anonymous says:

    CIG does not have any plans to live with the virus. They barely have any plan at all and they don’t like to stick to any plan. This virus is a great tool to take out all that is unnecessary and not self sustaining. Cayman can say good bye to many things they used to take for granted. like the rest of the world.

  12. Anonymous says:

    The testing will be done here in Cayman and the Authorities get the results directly from the HSA Lab. The staff at the labs have been heroes. I hope that effective oversight is in place as a deterrent against temptation and to give continuing assurance of reliability.

    • Anonymous says:

      As my former boss used to say when I mentioned being stuck in the office when the weather is the best: Your career choice.

      So the staff at the labs just doing their jobs. Just like people who bake bread daily. Besides, there is no virus in Cayman. ‘Much ado about nothing’.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Just extend restriction of entry to anyone proposing to come from ANY country which has shown increases in covid 10 – that would seem like most! Keep us as covid-free as possible.

    Meanwhile establish alternate sources of revenue, like a national lottery or legalized, farmed and taxed ganja – coranavirus will be around a long time!

  14. Anonymous says:

    I thought it was a joke when I first read it. A more stupid idea i’ve yet to hear of; although I admit I don’t have any ideas either, I know a bad one when I see one! And why people keep harping on about Gov lacking in planning ideas, I don’t know; hasn’t anyone noticed they have no plans anywhere else in the world either? It’s a bit disingenuous to expect our Gov be any different. Did they know all this was going to happen? No. The whole world is struggling along, planless.

  15. Anonymous says:

    US has a record of forging records of Covid tests? Huh? All the people in the US do this?

  16. Anonymous says:

    CNS That idea is not new. The resorts has operated that way for years keeping there guests in there own circle, they even tell them to stay away from the savage locals.

    • Anonymous says:

      As a tourist, even when I have stayed in an AI, I leave to explore the island, go to excursions or nightclubs. I would never go just stay in a resort. I might as well just stay home. Also, part of the benefits of staying at an AI would be meals and drinks included and it’s more reasonably priced than a regular hotel. That will never happen in Cayman.
      There are many islands open now with easier testing protocols. This bubble idea is not that attractive when one can go elsewhere easier and enjoy their island upon landing.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Uhm, the world is locking down again for round two, or an unrelenting continuation, can we not all see that?!?

  18. Anonymous says:

    And here those horrible words “all inclusive resorts” raise their ugly heads again. Only the resort would benefit from this if in fact it could be made to work, which is highly unlikely.

    This country has always sent a clear message to those all inclusive proponents that they are not welcome here. Whatever benefits there are to be derived from tourism must be spread over the whole country and not just concentrated on one “bubble”, which in any event is not owned by Caymanians and employ very few Caymanians in any case.

    Just say no, Alden. Plain and simple.

    • Renly Ebanks says:

      The days of dishonest business practices has come to a screeching halt just accept it and you won’t have to worry!!

  19. Anonymous says:

    “At some point we are going to have to make some really hard decisions.”……6 months in now….guess the next govt will need to make the hard decisions….as always

  20. Anonymous says:

    Cant work. Keep safe until vaccine is developed and tested, if alive is hope, if open up and dead no hope

  21. Anonymous says:

    The Ritz probably doesn’t make all that much money in normal times. The government have a $400M line of credit or something. Dart bought the Ritz for peanuts. we don’t have a public beach on SMB worth a crap anymore.

    Why not CIG buy the beach side of the Ritz from Dart, say – $250M. Demolish it. Create a beautifully located and landscaped beach, and lease it to the public for 999 years. Next door is Villas of GAlleon leasehold property. Govt could probably work a deal there also in coming years, especailly as their value would hurt once a public beach was being constructed adjacent to it. All of a sudden, the country has a huge, beautifully located and deserved public beach for ever.

    Dart wins – keeps all the Ritz lands and buildings from road side thru to North Sound and makes about $150M on the deal.

    Country wins. Everybody wins. Why not. And Leave the Bridge, give access to it from parking across roads, etc.

    There’s a plan there you know..this isn’t madness.

  22. Anonymous says:

    At the Ritz each member of staff has their home country flag on their name badge. During my 3 day staycation at the Ritz I do not see a Cayman Islands flag.

    • Lomart says:

      Wow! Unbelievable but TRUE😞

      • Anonymous says:

        And yet Alden suggested hundreds of Caymanians work at hotels. How many exactly? Doing what? Facts please Alden.

    • Anonymous says:

      That is because they value customer service. This should tell you that Caymanians do not make good servants. In fact is there anything that Caymanians are known to be good at? Besides whining?

    • Anon says:

      I actually saw quite a few. I spoke to one of them and he said he was trying to get his friends to come and work there, but they said they didn’t want to work outside in the sun all day

  23. Anonymous says:

    Open the border, build the dock, enlarge the airport, fix the dump!

    • Anonymous says:

      Wear a hazmat suit or stay home if you have health conditions or you’re scared.

      Every problem solved. Not complicated really.

    • Anonymous says:

      No dock no ship period. Those thing are environmental disasters and the people they carry are cheap.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Voluntary jail time in rooms oversaturated with powerful chemicals and some whiff of daily “fresh” (the Dump is across the road) air and sunshine.

    I hope hotel’ staff memorized poison control numbers and Health and Safety Department updates list of poisonous cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting chemicals daily as well as monitoring what hotels use.

    Welcome to paradise!

  25. Anonymous says:

    pie in the sky stuff.
    here is the real ppm plan(non-plan): bury their heads in the sand and wait for a vaccine and pray that the islands economy can somehow survive and re-build in the next 10 years.
    anybody who tells you different is likly to be trickster realtor/developer.

    • Anonymous says:

      Or one of hundreds of wealthy people queuing up to move here while the rest of the world goes to shit.

      • Anonymous says:

        you wish….you do not understand anything about the economics of cayman

      • Anonymous says:

        but they can’t get here and if they do they are in a bubble….wealthy people have many more options than cayman

        • Anonymous says:

          If a letter can’t get there, I don’t expect a whole bunch of tourists.

        • Anonymous says:

          Without Covid? Where their kids can go to school? Name one.

          • Anonymous says:

            I’m not sure exactly what you were trying to say, but I’m a teacher in the US and we had a 6 week in person summer school program without issues. We have also been holding in person classes since August 31 without any issues. So far- we are healthy!

      • Anonymous says:

        Don’t see anyone queuing up here, To many other places have opened up easier paths.

        Hey you can even go to Tahiti now!

        • Anonymous says:

          Just because you don’t see it… Doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Speak to real estate agents and architects.. they can tell you they are seeing something quite different.

      • Anonymous says:

        This sounds like a feed the pig commercial where the guy’s retirement plan is depending on an inheritance from a rich uncle, because everyone has a rich uncle.

    • Heller says:

      Excuse me pie in your 1:25pm, do You have any bright ideas or you are suffering from Covidregresion.

    • Cicust says:

      Whats your suggestion

  26. Anonymous says:

    Pie in the sky

  27. Anonymous says:

    stupid idea by stupid people

    • Anonymous says:

      Who in their right mind would go through the hassle of travel here, to be effectively quarantined in the resort bubble ?
      Visitors that come here want to experience the island & what it has to offer, not be locked behind a gate with staff in a Hazmat suit.
      Also please stop flogging that high net worth individuals are lining up with their passports to come here .
      Next thing is we will be told the Stingrays have to have a Covid test & wear a Mask , might need to be a scuba mask tho’

      • MG says:

        I am a semi HNW who was looking to relocate my family in September. All my plans are currently on hold until the CIG has come up with a workable long term plan and the hysteria of the locals has subsided.

        • Anonymous says:

          CIG?…… Workable long term plan? Er, ah, mmm…….. Have you considered any other options?

        • Anonymous says:

          “hysteria of the locals”

          People like you are such jerks. I can’t stand people like you.

          BTW What is a “semi-HNW” individual? C’mon. That’s like a borderline vegan.

          Get stuffed, Bobo.

    • Anon says:

      👍simply the most intelligent post!

  28. Anonymous says:

    Hotels will need to adopt the staffing model used in remote all inclusive venues such as safari lodges.

    The model will look something like this:
    1) Staff live in the hotel and work 2 weeks on duty.
    2( Staff will spend 2 weeks isolating in hotel away from tourists ( getting screened for Covid as per protocol).
    3) Staff will be released to spend two weeks on leave.

    The staff would be supplied with the geofencing wristband when they report to duty and during the isolation phase.

    • Anonymous says:

      Caymanians will never agree to work like this. And we have strongly stated the obvious that foreign workers who would do this are not welcome anymore.

      Happy loan defaults and bankruptcies.

      So basically CIG has no viable plan.

  29. Anonymous says:

    The very concept and the risks involved requires a clear and accurate answer to the question of how many Caymanians are in fact employed by each hotel, and would be employed to staff any bubble. Not Permanent Residents or spouses of Caymanians. Caymanians. That is the starting point – so we can understand who we would be taking the risk for.

    Then there is the issue of what those Caymanians are employed to do. If the jobs for Caymanians we are taking risks for are $1,000 a month roles as housekeepers, then the risks are even less “worth it.”

    If, equipped with that knowledge, it is planned to proceed then either the guests will have to be barred from using the beach, or the Caymanian public will need to be barred from using the beach. It seems it would have to be one or the other. All hotel workers will need to move onto the premises and not be allowed to leave (potentially for months), and someone needs to be ready to explain what happens if there is a healthcare emergency or police intervention required in the “bubble.”

    Are we going to arrest tourists who choose to leave the premises?

    Locals could forget staycations or accessing any of the bars and restaurants, and no “local” bars and restaurants could accept the custom of bubble visitors.

    Far from an easy issue, and one whose resolution may not be of much direct benefit to Caymanians.

    Alden identified months ago that stay over tourism has often been a disaster for Caymanians. Is he now changing his tune? What has changed?

  30. Anonymous says:

    Kick all residents out of little cayman and open up little cayman to everyone.

    Problem solved.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yep keep them off the Island.

      200,000 dead in the US and numbers are skyrocketing around the world and they want to open up ?


      • Anonymous says:

        Wow skyrocketing……..You do know how many people die a day from other illnesses?

      • Anonymous says:

        CDC clarified that only 9000 of these were actual direct Covid deaths. You might want to start reading news and not just relying on the WHO dashboard numbers.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Make the staff live on site at the Ritz. House staff on the North Sound side and put tourists in the beach side. That’s the only way to create a genuine bubble. Anything else is a waste of time and you might as well let the guests loose across the island.

    • Anonymous says:

      So you take care of the staff what about the resident owners who have made the Ritz Residences their home, are you going to lock them in the bubble too. They have friends and family on the island who they spend time with, their children attends school, sounds like a bigger problem than recognized as the same is true for the Kimpton. I guess you could try it at the Marriott and the Westin where all you have to worry about is the staff.

    • Anonymous says:

      Makes you wonder whether some down voters are actually willing to reintroduce Covid into Cayman so we have no reason to stay closed to the wider world…

      • Anonymous says:

        Covid is global even in Cayman. If you think it’s not there, you are fooling yourself. There was a case over the weekend. Yes, numbers have been low, but unless every person on island and those in quarantine have been tested and all come back negative, Covid is on Cayman.

    • Anonymous says:

      What do you tell the residents that own at the ritz and are currently living there?

      • Anonymous says:

        That the people who serve them every day may become unemployed and no one will clean their pool?

    • Anonymous says:

      What about the people who live in the residences on the beach side? I don’t see how this is workable at the Ritz unless they isolate tourists on the island side, and what tourists will want to come to Cayman and not get to the beach?

      I admire the hoteliers’ attempts to be creative but I am not sure this system is workable when Cayman’s hotels – or most of them anyway – are essentially physically integrated into the community.

  32. Anonymous says:

    If hotels want to do this, they need to commit to regular staff testing, plus providing accommodations for staff so they can ‘live where they work’ and be paid additional stipend for the inconvenience, hotels need to only sell 1 week stays and cycle staff on a week on week off type situation. If the hotels aren’t prepared to equip staff with the facilities and tools they need to do this safely it will be far too big a risk to take on, both to the staff and to the public at large. Also, I wouldn’t accept any tourists from the US , they have a track record of forging test results just so they can go on vacation.

    • Anonymous says:

      Or they just go to Barbados instead?

    • Annie says:

      Where did that information come from? I would like to see your source (link, please), as I have never heard of tourists from the US “forging “(?) test results to go on vacation— (I’m pretty sure you made that up to support your agenda of keeping them out)-

      Are you also planning to keep tourists from the UK out? Their numbers have exponerisen in the past two weeks, and Boris Johnson is closing down offices and curfew if again, stating it may be for 6 months AT LEAST. But no, seems you don’t have a concern there, just keep the Americans out, right? And make up a lie to make them look dishonest.

      Nice. “Cayman Kind”—? Not at all.

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