DG Statement About Cayman Travel
Deputy Governor, Hon. Franz Manderson announced in the House the launch of Travel Cayman’s New Travel Portal which was piloted on Monday, 19 October 2020. He explained how to access the portal which is designed to enhance the travel application process for the customer.
Mister Speaker, since late March 2020, as the World Health Organisation declared that the spread of COVID-19 around the globe had triggered a pandemic, the Government has taken decisive steps to protect Caymanians and those resident in the Cayman Islands, by putting in place an effective first line of defence at our borders. These measures include putting in place repatriation flights to allow Caymanians and those resident in Cayman to return home and by adopting quarantine measures and COVID-screening before allowing travellers to move freely within our community. At the same time, Mr Speaker, robust measures were taken to contain community spread so that life might gradually return to a new normal.
The outcome of this, Mr Speaker, is that today our people participate face to face in classrooms and churches, commerce has resumed with no restrictions applying to restaurants and retail operations, and persons can gather in celebrations as large as 500 persons at a time. This is in stark contrast to the vast majority of developed countries who are seeing a second wave which is flooding their hospitals and emptying their schools and businesses.
There can be little doubt of the wisdom of timely and decisive action that has been taken and continues to be taken to keep these Islands safe. We also, understand, Mr Speaker, that we have an obligation to provide these services at a high standard.
It because of this enduring commitment that we have to not only do the right things but to do them well, that I am happy to provide the latest update on the framework which exists to process inbound travellers to the Cayman Islands. Mr Speaker, I am pleased to announce the Launch of Travel Cayman’s New Travel Portal, which was piloted on Monday 19 October 2020.
The web address for the new portal is https://www.exploregov.ky/TravelCayman.
Mister Speaker, this online portal is designed to enhance the travel application process by providing a streamlined, one-stop shop for applications and approvals. Our goal, Mister Speaker, is to create a more efficient process that delivers a positive customer experience.
Mister Speaker, the new, user-friendly online gateway collects information from prospective travellers, and manages the travel application through a multi-agency vetting process. At present, Mister Speaker, travellers can select their preferred quarantine arrangements via the Travel Cayman portal for November travel only. This is a temporary restriction to allow applications for travellers arriving in November to be prioritised. All persons who plan to travel in November, including persons who may have submitted various emails through TravelTime, are being asked to reapply using the new Travel Cayman portal, in order to also select their quarantine option.
Mister Speaker, as of Saturday morning, 24 October, less than a week since the Travel Cayman site was launched, 752 requests had been received (for a total of 1,038 travellers). Of these requests:
290 travel approvals have been issued (approximately 40% of the requests),
25 requests have been rejected as they do not meet the criteria for travel.
31 requests have received provisional approval subject to the traveller confirming their quarantine arrangements,
36 requests are awaiting further input from the traveller prior to the certificate being issued, and
370 requests are actively being processed.
Mister Speaker, in addition to being able to provide speedy turnaround times for applications, we have also eliminated the long waiting times on calls that were previously experienced by applicants as we transitioned from TravelTime to our new Travel Cayman management system. As an example, Mister Speaker, I would like to share some call time statistics for Saturday, 24 October 2020. Of a total of more than 130 calls handled:
The average waiting time was 48 seconds and the maximum waiting time was 11 mins and 20 seconds.
The average duration of a call was around 4 mins, and the maximum call time was 28 minutes and 34 seconds.
Travel Cayman Resources
Mister Speaker, Travel Cayman is a cross-ministerial project and comprises teams from a number of government agencies working in collaboration. To date, over 140 staff from core government and the Statutory Authorities and Government-owned companies have been redeployed to work with Travel Cayman, supporting various aspects of the travel management, travel support, health screening, and monitoring and compliance requirements. As the volume of travellers increases over time, the level of support provided increases in tandem to maintain a positive travel experience. In addition, a new travel support team staffed through collaboration with the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman has been incorporated to provide support to travellers who have queries or need non-emergency assistance while in quarantine.
Travel Cayman Application Process
Mister Speaker, persons wishing to travel to the Cayman Islands are required to register on the Travel Cayman site and will be guided through a series of fields in order to provide basic information such as the traveller’s name, proposed travel dates, immigration status, names of others in the same travel party, and preferred quarantine option.
Mister Speaker, using the new portal, the traveller can also indicate if they will isolate at a residence with another occupant who is already present on island. This allows the non-travelling household members (occupants), to provide their details at the same time for smooth onboarding for the monitoring and surveillance team.
Mister Speaker, once the completed application has been submitted, the applicant receives an automatically generated email advising when they can expect to hear back from the Travel Cayman team. The travel request then appears on the dashboards of multiple government agencies, each of which plays a part in reviewing and approving the travel request. Customs and Border control will check the immigration status to confirm that the traveller complies with prevailing policies, while in parallel, several teams of inspectors validate that the proposed residential quarantine location is suitable for the prescribed quarantine period.
Mister Speaker, when all checks have been completed in the system, a Certificate to Travel is automatically issued, and applicable traveller data is passed on to relevant agencies as required. For example, the Health Services Authority would receive a complete list of incoming passengers two days before a flight, so that they can register travellers in the system that is used to manage COVID-19 PCR testing, and prepare and label the tests that will be required each day.
Mister Speaker, travellers who have not submitted an application and received approval to travel from Travel Cayman will not be permitted to board a repatriation flight to the Cayman Islands. It should be noted that Travel Cayman authorisation is in addition to normal entry and landing requirements.
Mister Speaker, a dedicated email address and phone number have been established as part of the new Travel Cayman Management system. Questions or concerns pertaining to inbound travel should be directed to the Travel Cayman team by emailing TravelCayman@gov.ky or by calling 743-8463 between the hours of 8:30 am and 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday.
In summary, Mister Speaker, the new Travel Cayman site is already greatly improving the traveller experience by reducing the need to call or email the Travel Cayman team for information. The site manages the applications based on arrival dates and quarantine requirements, thereby removing the need for manual sorting and responding to each query, which streamlines and speeds up the application process. Since launching the site the Travel Cayman call lines have been cleared and feedback on the portal has been positive. The portal is currently processing travel requests for the month of November, but this will be gradually extended.
Mister Speaker, the development and implementation of the Travel Cayman Management System and the launch of the Cayman Travel Portal are important milestones in the programme for the Phased Opening of our Cayman Islands borders. This achievement has been made possible through the hard work and dedication of many individuals and project teams across multiple government agencies, and with the generous donation of much needed staffing resources from the Ritz-Carlton, Cayman Islands. Therefore, Mr Speaker, I would like to recognise all those contributing to this important initiative, including:
The Programme Board and Programme Management Office for the Phased Opening programme with particular recognition due to Dr Tasha Ebanks-Garcia, for our tireless efforts.
The Department of Public Safety Communications
The HSA and the Public Health Department
The Mobile Compliance Team made up Customs and Border Control and Regiment Reservists
The Computer Services Department,
The Facilities Management Department,
The Ritz-Carlton, Cayman Islands
The TravelTime team in the Ministry of International Trade, Investment, Aviation and Maritime Affairs
Government Information Services, and
PeerIslands who have ably assisted with software development.
Mr Speaker we owe a special thanks to Chief Officer Bush and his team who successfully managed Curfewtime and then Traveltime -they did an incredible job under very stress conditions. I am happy that the Ministry of International Trade Investment, Aviation and Maritime Affairs can now return to the important work of the Ministry.
Mr Speaker, the transfer of Traveltime to Caymantravel on the 1st October did not go smoothly. The number of travellers who wished to return home using the new policy of home isolation overwhelmed the Caymantravel team. Mr Speaker, I have said it before and I will say it again the Civil Service aims to provide an exemplary service to our customers when we do not achieve that goal - we will not make excuses – we will not bury our head in the sand and hope that the problem goes away. We redouble our efforts and resolve the problem. Mr Speaker from the information provided I do hope that you will agree that we have effectively solved the problem.
Thank you Mister Speaker.