As some Caribbean destinations continue to slowly reopen their borders to visitors, a Caribbean Tourism COVID-19 Task Force has introduced a set of guidelines and training to help countries put protocols in place.
Included in the guidelines is a set of “proposed requirements for moving around in the CARICOM space”.
The requirements call for proof of a negative COVID-19 test from travellers, with the recommendation being that the test was carried out in the last 48-hours.
Under its general health guidelines, the task force is also proposing increased screening regime by commercial transportations; physical distancing; the wearing of masks; hand hygiene; quarantine at home, government facility or hotel; temperature screening and adequate signage at accommodations.
The COVID-19 tourism task force is also advocating for real-time monitoring via a confidential early warning and response web-based system and specific handling and responses to COVID-19 cases in hotels and tourism accommodation establishments.
A COVID-19 travellers health app is also to be introduced as part of the measures within the next two weeks to provide information about what is happening in the Caribbean.
Individuals using the app will be able to have real-time monitoring of destinations and access information regarding the pandemic and measures being used by hotels.
The task force Wednesday launched training on Caribbean health and safety sanitation guidelines which are intended to help guide tourism and hospitality officials and governments as they start welcoming visitors.
The task force, which was set up in March, consists of representatives from the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, the Caribbean Public Health Agency, Caribbean Tourism Organization, Organization of Eastern Caribbean States and the Global Tourism Resiliency and Crisis Management Centre.
Adamant that all should be done to ensure the safety of every citizen and visitors as borders reopen to commercial flights, the task force officials said that clearly articulated protocols were needed in all destinations and among industry players.
Chief Executive Officer and Director General of the CHTA Frank Camito said he understood why there seemed to be a lack of cohesiveness among countries in the region in relation to reopening of borders and protocols, pointing out that there were several limitations including the availability of testing kits, capacity for testing given the number of tourists they welcome on average, and “some sovereignty issues”.
Several countries in the Caribbean have already announced an official reopening of their airport for tourists and have implemented health measures in that regard.
Despite initially suggesting a July 1 date for international commercial flights from source markets to return to the Grantley Adams International Airport, authorities in Bridgetown are yet to commit and say what protocols would be implemented.
Camito said: “We are advocating for testing. There is no doubt about it. We believe it is important to the health and safety of our residents and employees and the travellers. But we recognize there is a variance of capacity and circumstances within different jurisdictions.
“What we are providing are guidelines. Most jurisdictions are actually adhering to this and some will make decisions in their own ways as to what works best for their destination.”
The CHTA head said that after extensive engagement and review of the proposed guidelines with stakeholders, the response has been “incredibly positive”.
The task force kicked off its training with civil servants yesterday and have started to issue a range of flyers with information on the protocols. In the first phase, training will run until July 22.
CHTA President Patricia Affonso-Dass said that by being cohesive in its guidelines and protocols, the Caribbean could gain an advantage.
She said: “I think the ability for us to say across the region that we are all following a common set of guidelines, a minimum standard with respect to safety and security, gives us an extremely powerful marketing message and strong message of assurance to people who are visiting the region.
“Yes, there is the question of sovereignty of each of our destinations, but throughout this process, there has been active engagement at the level of the public sector, at the level of [the] health sector and certainly at the level of the private sector, and for those destinations for example, that have re-opened in advance of the protocols, we have been in active dialogue with them and what they are doing has been informed by our effort and vice-versa.” She gave an assurance that the efforts were well-coordinated.
She added: “This is one of those situations where it is extremely important that visitors to the region understand the importance of following the protocols that have been implemented for their safety and for the safety and security and wellbeing of the places they are visiting”.
Acting Chief Executive Officer of the CTO Neil Walters said: “As it stands, at this stage in our history, tourism is the lifeblood of the region and we must do all that we can to ensure that when we reopen our destinations, which are in the process of doing so, that we do so in the right way.
“I believe these protocols will help us along with the individual national efforts that have taken place so far to do the reopening in the right way.”