In a letter written to the head of the CARICOM (Caribbean Community)—and copied to the region’s heads of government and health and tourism leaders—president of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) Nicola Madden-Greig has called for the continued adherence to health safety protocols and stepped up vaccinations. She also cautioned that rushing to close Caribbean borders and impose difficult and costly travel barriers could delay the recovery and have severe consequences for the region’s economies.
Writing to the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne, who currently serves as chairman of CARICOM, Madden-Greig applauded the region’s governments, health and tourism authorities, and the tourism industry for the Caribbean’s strong tourism rebound, while maintaining the health safety of employees and travelers. She cited the low positivity rate of tested travelers, and the success of health safety protocols aimed at protecting employees, visitors and residents and added that this should reassure travelers and Caribbean residents that risk levels from tourists are extremely low, and the tourism industry continues to protect lives and livelihoods.
Madden-Greig asserted that implementing onerous measures would hamper the sustained recovery of travel and tourism and regional economies, which she said had restored an estimated 70 percent of tourism-related employment and “supported the replenishment of sorely needed tax revenue to governments.”
Despite the region’s success in reducing the impact of COVID-19, Madden-Greig warned that the proliferation of the Delta variant, the emergence of the Omicron variant, the re-emergence of travel bans and more stringent travel regulations threatened to reverse the tourism recovery. Moreover, CHTA concurs with the World Health Organization’s opposition to blanket travel bans, which it says would not prevent the international spread, while placing a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods. Additionally, such bans could harm global health efforts during a pandemic “by disincentivizing countries to report and share epidemiological and sequencing data.”
Underscoring the need for care in applying travel bans, CHTA reported advanced bookings of airline tickets and hotel stays indicated a potential tourism recovery rate in 2022 of more than 70 percent of the industry’s 2019 peak performance levels.
Tourists should also be encouraged by the fact that vaccination rates for employees in the region’s tourism industry far outpace those for the general population, and CHTA reported that 28 percent of employers surveyed reported that 100 percent of their employees were fully vaccinated and an additional 20 percent reported that between 75 and 99 percent of their workforce was fully vaccinated.
CHTA, which speaks for the private sector, sought renewed commitment from governments for reducing the high cost of approved PCR and antigen tests for residents, tourism-related employees, visitors and returning travelers, and supporting destinations experiencing difficulty achieving one- and two-day turnaround times for processing test results, by appealing to U.S., U.K. and Canadian governments for the latest testing equipment.
There was also a need to expand the availability of self-test kits, increased vaccination rates, advancing booster shots and including tourism-related employees in priority tiers for these additional shots. CHTA also asked for stepped-up health safety compliance for employees and tourists to minimize complacency in adhering to, and enforcing, health safety measures. The industry is being urged to continue to provide flexible cancellation policies and affordable travel insurance.
Madden-Greig contended travelers have recognized the region’s efficacy in containing the pandemic as evidenced by the Caribbean’s leading role globally in tourism’s recovery and in containing COVID-19. “Our ability to continue to manage our way through the pandemic is the fastest path to recovery, getting displaced employees back to work, ensuring businesses survive, and replenishing badly needed government revenues as we collectively work towards the sustained growth for our economies,” she wrote.
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