CHTA Says Region Should Stay The Course

In a letter to the head of the CARICOM, the region’s heads of government as well as health and tourism leaders, the president of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), Nicola Madden-Greig is calling for the continued adherence to health safety protocols and stepped up vaccinations, but is cautioning 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 travellers.

She cited the low positivity rate of tested travellers, and the success of health safety protocols aimed at protecting employees, visitors and residents; adding that this should reassure travelers and also Caribbean residents that risk levels from tourists are extremely low, and the tourism industry continues to protect lives and livelihoods.

However, Madden-Greig cautioned that putting onerous measures in place would retard the sustained recovery of travel and tourism and regional economies, which she said had restored an estimated 70% of tourism-related employment and “supported the replenishment of sorely needed tax revenue to governments.”

Despite the region’s success in minimizing the impact of COVID-19, Madden-Greig warned that the proliferation of the Delta variant, the emergence of the Omicron variant, the reemergence of travel bans, and more stringent travel regulations threaten to reverse the tourism recovery.

And, not surprisingly, the CHTA agrees with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) opposition to blanket travel bans which it says would not prevent the international spread, while placing a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods. In addition, such bans could harm global health efforts during a pandemic “by disincentivizing countries to report and share epidemiological and sequencing data.”

In the letter, CHTA recalled that prior to the emergence of the Omicron variant and additional travel bans and restrictions, the outlook for the peak travel period this winter and spring, and for the return of intra-Caribbean business and leisure travel by Caribbean residents and the diaspora, was strong.

Referring to the uncertainty surrounding the Omicron variant, the tenacity of the Delta variant, the level of vaccine hesitancy by many residents, and a complacency in adherence to health safety protocols in many parts of the world, CHTA cautioned that “the region may now find itself struggling to recover in 2022.”

The situation was exacerbated by increased threat levels, travel bans, and new travel restrictions which had initially led to some traveler cancellations and a decrease in booking levels. As such, CHTA urged Caribbean governments to continue to “strike the delicate balance between the health safety of our residents and visitors, and the restoration of our economies.”

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% of the industry’s 2019 peak performance levels.

Madden-Greig also pointed out that travellers 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.”

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