by Marlon Madden
While some Caribbean tourism officials are upbeat that the region’s bread and butter industry will bounce back soon, they are calling on governments to have a more harmonized approach in the requirements for welcoming visitors, so as to give tourists greater confidence.
The call came on Wednesday during the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Forward Looking discussion.
Representatives from the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the CTO and the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre (GTRCMC) in Jamaica took part in the discussion which looked at how Caribbean destinations have been progressing during the reopening of their borders since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the next critical steps they should take.
Lisa Indar, Head of Regional Tourism and Health Programme at CARPHA, said there was a need for more uniformity in testing requirements for visitors to the region.
“We need to up our public health infrastructure and surveillance,” she added.
Saying that the most important thing for the region was to have preventative measures in place to hinder transmission of COVID-19, Indar said strong emphasis should therefore be placed on physical distancing, proper hygiene practices and the wearing of masks.
Stopping short of agreeing that countries should make the wearing of masks mandatory, she said the various measures should become part of everyday habit.
“[Wearing] masks is a key way for preventing infection, and there are a couple countries now that have made it law and it has actually shown that it is working, so we would strongly recommend these measures,” she said.
Acting General Secretary of the CTO Neil Walters said Caribbean destinations will need to build on the progress made so far.
“The Caribbean, I believe, will come back, and the collaborative efforts that have helped us to come this far need to continue in terms of making sure that all of the key players are on, at least, some form of level as possible footing,” he suggested.
Pointing out that there was no perfect scenario, Walters said while he believed the message was beginning to get through to people that the region was open for business, “the requirement is that the Caribbean speaks with a voice that says we are ready, and we are ready based on a basic set of realities”.
“We expect that our measures will mitigate against a full-blown crisis happening, and that is something else we need to highlight and make sure it gets out there,” he added.
“One of the most critical things we need to do at this time is get the perspective on testing correctly and get it as uniformed as possible . . . . That is something we need to work on as quickly as we can.”
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer and Director General of the CHTA Frank Comito also called for a more harmonized approach to testing requirements among countries and more consistency in protocols.
He said: “We have done a great job in collaborating and cooperating [between] the public and private sector and various governments, but it is still not what it could be.
“If we were more collective and our approach more harmonized we would create less confusion in the marketplace out there.
“There is a lot of confusion. We heard it today; there are 26 or 32, depending on how you look at it, different requirements for entry into the Caribbean, it should be more consistently organized and we should be moving towards that,” he said.
The officials also urged Caribbean residents to adhere to the protocols in place and cut down on having parties.