The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) says the world isn’t getting the full picture of the Caribbean when destinations are subject to travel advisories.
Thanks to safety measures and a commitment to protect employees, the Caribbean is safe for travel, said Vanessa Ledesma, acting CEO and director general of the CHTA, in a news release on Sept. 21.
Some regions have faced new travel warnings due to an increase in COVID-19 cases attributed to the Delta variant, the CHTA said.
But there is “no indication” that the increase in travel to the region over the past several months has contributed to any significant spread of the virus, Ledesma said.
“According to contact tracing analysis provided by several of the region’s destinations which are monitoring this, the level of COVID-19 transmission between residents and visitors has been negligible,” said Ledesma.
Testing travellers returning home has shown insignificant positivity rates, she said.
As such, Ledesma believes that travel warnings based on COVID-19 positivity levels can be misleading.
“We have gone to great lengths to produce the safest possible corridors in our tourism-related communities,” she said, adding that “Caribbean travel is safe and continues to get safer.”
The Caribbean’s commitment to health safety started long before the beginning of the pandemic, Ledesma added.
The region’s “multi-agency collaborative approach” also helped to jumpstart the training of nearly 8,000 of the region’s tourism industry supervisors, managers and owners.
In early 2020, the CHTA joined forces with Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Global Tourism Resiliency and Crisis Management Centre (GTRCMC) to form the COVID-19 Caribbean Tourism Task Force.
Recognizing that the Caribbean is the world’s most tourism-dependent region, a priority was placed on establishing protocols to ensure that interactions within tourism communities and between locals and visitors were safe.
The organizations' plan is to continue managing the pandemic’s risks and rebuild the region’s economy by protecting lives and livelihoods, the CHTA said.
Boosting local vaccination rates is part of this process, said Ledesma.
She warned, however, that “the pace of recovery still rests in the hands of the public and we encourage all employees who are able to be vaccinated to do so, to help fast-track the region’s recovery.”
Nicola Madden-Greig, CHTA’s first vice-president, chair of its advocacy committee and a Jamaican hotelier, said the people of the Caribbean can “control their own destiny, accelerate our recovery, and help to get our people back to work faster, while generating the revenue our governments desperately need to provide basic services.”
“We’ve been advised that vaccines are now readily available throughout the Caribbean, so there is little excuse for those who are able to receive one not to do so,” she said.
Despite pandemic-related challenges, the Caribbean’s industry performance numbers have been “among the best in the world,” the CHTA said.
CHTA’s Data Partner ForwardKeys, which tracks air travel globally, indicates that through August 31, 2021, the Caribbean and Mexico have been popular destinations for international visitors, with seven of the world’s top airlift performers coming from the region.
Hotel occupancy rates for the Caribbean, while still below 2019’s strong performance, increased to 53.6 per cent in July 2021 from 19.5 per cent the year before according to CHTA Strategic Partner STR.
While advance bookings have slowed globally, demand for travel to the Caribbean this upcoming winter is strong as indicated by advance bookings, buoyed by flexible cancellation policies and travel insurance as added assurances to give travellers confidence, the CHTA said.
While most of the region’s 30-plus destination offerings have similar travel and health safety protocols, the differences can be reviewed here.