The Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) believes Government got it right with its protocols for travelling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Newly elected chairman Geoffrey Roach said he was also in agreement that this was the right time to reopen the island’s borders to visitors.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY at the opening of the Worthing Food Court this evening, Roach said “smart decisions” had been made by Government.
Last Friday, Prime Minister Mia Mottley and Minister of Tourism Kerrie Symmonds announced new protocols for visitors coming to the island. These include the requirement of a COVID-19 PCR Antigen test 72 hours before travel to Barbados, the conversion of the Concorde Experience at the Grantley Adams International Airport to a testing facility, and the use of several hotels on the island as satellite testing facilities.
“In terms of commercial flights returning to Barbados, certainly the Barbados economy is at a point where we need to have international travel returning, because tourism really is the mainstay of our economy as we all know,” Roach said.
“Of course, given that we are in the COVID environment we have to ensure that we put certain things in place – and this is we, nationally – to ensure that we minimise the risk of COVID being reintroduced to the country, or even if there are cases, to control the spread of it.
“I know there’s a lot of work that has been undertaken with regard to continued protocols, [and] different players have been consulted. Labour has been consulted, the tourism industry has been consulted, the Ministry of Health, of course, and I think certainly considering all of those different stakeholders, the plan that I am aware of at this point is drawn up to ensure that Barbados takes the necessary steps, in terms of the type of protocols we implement to safeguard first and foremost our locals, but also anyone who chooses to visit Barbados,” the BHTA chairman added.
Roach contended that with a wide range of stakeholders having contributed to the development of the protocols, most scenarios had been addressed.
“We are still awaiting the final protocols, because there still are some tweaks to be made and we are hopeful they should be out in a very short space of time. I’ve had the opportunity to sit with the stakeholders and have a discussion on these protocols and I believe a lot of sensible decisions have been made,” he said.
“This is a health crisis and the Ministry of Health has to have final sign off on these. I believe based on what I have seen so far from the Ministry of Health is that they have done some very good work and I have no doubt they will continue to do so and take the best interest of Barbados at heart.”
Roach pointed out that if the COVID-19 situation got out of hand once commercial flights to Barbados resumed, the Prime Minister had already given the assurance that Government was willing to do whatever was necessary to protect its people.
“I’m pretty comfortable that taking all of the discussions into consideration, that we will have protocols that will put us in a pretty safe position; but as you know we can always pull the brakes and put it in reverse,” the BHTA official said.
Roach said the communication of the protocols was also important as it would allow visitors to know what was expected of them locally and internationally.