by Marlon Madden
There is a prediction that the tourism industry will continue to suffer for another two to three years before it returns to any semblance
of pre coronavirus (COVID-19) levels.
At the same time, while industry officials are optimistic that the rollout of vaccination will help to boost travellers’ confidence, they have
warned countries against using vaccination as a prerequisite for travel.
Caribbean countries are to receive vaccines this year that should be enough for at least 20 cent of the population.
Governments have already identified hotel and hospitality sector employees as frontline workers who are to be among the first set of those to benefit from the first set of vaccines.
Lola Uña Cárdenas, Vice President of Government Affairs at the London-Based World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), warned that vaccination was no silver bullet to fixing the dreadful situation that continues to face the tourism industry, but said the situation required a combination of solutions.
“Of course, the aggressive rollout of vaccination obviously, but on top of that we need to continue testing – testing on departure, testing on arrival and in some cases testing on day five of arrival for example. We need to continue to have contact tracing and we cannot forget wearing the face masks and having the health and safety protocols in place.
“It is going to depend on how governments react, the type of support measures and we have been calling since the very early stages for international coordination and cooperation. We are all in this together, this is a global business and we need to work together,” she said.
She warned that using vaccination as a requirement for international by any country could be seen as discrimination.
“We continue to say that vaccination must not become a requirement for international travel and of course right now, there is the lack of supply, so we should not discriminate against those who wish to travel but have not been vaccinated,” she said.
“If we use the vaccine as a tool for people to travel that is going to create the wrong behaviour. It will take a significant amount of time to vaccinate the global population and particularly those in less advanced countries or where the vacines take longer to arrive,” added Cárdenas.
She was speaking recently during the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) online forum Tourism Immunised, where industry experts shared their views on what the COVID-19 vaccination means for Caribbean tourism.
Marguerite Fitzgerald, Managing Director and Partner with the US-based Boston Consulting Group (BCG), pointed out that tourism was vastly driven by consumer confidence and therefore the rollout of a vaccine would play a major role in the region regaining the trust and confidence of eager would-be travellers.
However, she said based on research, a number of people were still adopting a “wait and see” approach to travel and therefore “regardless of where we are in the cycle of vaccines or waves, we don’t believe we are going to see full recovery until psychologically people are ready to travel again”.
“Having said that, I believe we are going to return and return strongly. This is probably the most resilient sector there is – leisure travel.
But it is just going to take time.
“So we are very positive, but we believe it is going to be 2023 or 2024 before we get back to 2019 levels,” said Fitzgerald.
Pointing to some of the latest BCG research on the travel industry, Fitzgerald said consumers missed leisure travel “more than anything”, adding that in December some 66 per cent of consumers said they could hardly wait to start travelling again, a seven percentage point increase from July last year.
She said with the introduction of vaccines people were seeing some “light” to them travelling again, but there was still a level of hesitation.
For the cruise sector for example, Fitzgerald pointed out that overall some 80 per cent of past cruisers said they were willing to wait until at least 2022 before they started cruising again.
“If you look at July, 50 per cent of respondents from past cruise said we won’t go back to cruising unless there is a vaccine, but by the end of October that dropped to 40 per cent,” she said.
“When the news of the vaccine came that went back up to 50 per cent of the pass cruisers who said they wanted to wait.
“This was not the case across some of the other travel sectors where people have said ‘this starts to feel normal’. So there are different messages and different impacts for you in the Caribbean region,” she explained.
Stating that it was going to be difficult and it will take a while to build back up the cruise industry, Fitzgerald said: “The survival of the businesses particularly smaller ones is also going to be really critical. As people come back we need to make sure they have places to go, and that is particularly for you as a region – how do you make sure you are there”. (MM)