To protect countries and tourism service providers from COVID-19 related law suits, regional governments and tourism officials have been warned to introduce protocols for visitors before resuming international flights.
The caution has come from tourism expert and former Minister of Tourism in The Bahamas, Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace as he addressed a recent webinar hosted by the Portfolio Marketing Group to discuss the region’s return to tourism and travel.
Moreover, Vanderpool-Wallace said it would be self-defeating for individual Caribbean countries to go off on their own, creating protocols. He said a coordinated approach that was easily understood by the travelling public was a far better way of handling the situation.
Within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Antigua and Barbuda resumed accepting international flights this week, while The Bahamas and Jamaica have provided firm dates for the resumption of international travel to their destinations.
A former director general of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), Vanderpool-Wallace told participants: “We are dealing with the most litigious people in the world and we have to ensure that what we are putting forward is something that they understand very clearly what they are signing on to do and minimising any possibility that we are going to find ourselves with legal issues to be addressed.
“We need to ensure that some of these restrictions where governments are telling their people not to travel, that this is addressed and so we can begin to reopen and make sure that the litigation issues are going to be sorted out. We don’t want to have people coming and worried that they are going to be sued if anything goes awry.”
COVID-19 has killed more than one million people around the world and infected more the three million. Infections continue to rise in major source markets such as the United States and the United Kingdom.
Vanderpool-Wallace explained: “Then there is the matter of testing, making sure that people coming into our region are people who are COVID-free and that they can prove that, before they get onboard an aircraft and come to the Caribbean.
“Obviously we are not in a position to have large numbers of people under quarantine in the region. So it is very important that we get the testing done. It is ensuring that every day . . . that the people who are engaged in providing the services to our visitors and those who are in our region have the highest assurance that there is no cross contamination going on.”
He added: “The next one is dealing with some of the instructions that we find in the United States for example . . . . There is a team of people mostly in the diplomatic area who are working with the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom to make sure that we have a good understanding of what needs to be done to get things opened back up so that each country feels comfortable going forward.”
Meanwhile, recently retired CTO secretary general Hugh Riley warned that information was changing rapidly regarding COVID-19 and so those in the industry needed to keep themselves updated.
“Coronavirus has put over 200 million tourism jobs in jeopardy worldwide and 2.5 million of those jobs are in the Caribbean. We have a responsibility to get those jobs back. We are optimistic it will happen but we have to base this on facts,” he said. (IMC1)
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