Despite the temporary collapse of tourism and uncertainty about its future, tourism minister Senator Lisa Cummins says the demand for Barbados’ product continues to soar.
In fact, Minister Cummins told Barbados TODAY that pent-up demand from United Kingdom (U.K) holidaymakers is already resulting in increased bookings ranging from 300 to 600 per cent as the country’s largest source market moves toward a gradual lifting of international travel restrictions.
According to the minister, officials here are eyeing the latter part of 2021 for a more full-scale restart of tourism. She is however adamant there will be no “full steam ahead” approach until the Ministry of Health and Wellness believes it is safe to do so.
Cummins will be discussing the increasing demand; countries’ coronavirus travel protocols as well as vaccination rollouts both here and abroad with stakeholders from major tourism source markets.
“We are going to be having [discussions] with the U.K, we are going to be having them with Canada, and we are going to be having them with our partners out of North America including the U.S market,” Minister Cummins told Barbados TODAY.
“In the interim, the initial predictions are that for the U.K market, there is such latent pent up demand that bookings have soared 300 per cent and some reports getting back to us are suggesting up to 600 per cent increases in bookings in a time of uncertainty when people are not yet in a position to say what is going to happen.
The revelation comes less than a week after U.K Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced May 17th as the earliest date British citizens could go on international holidays, resulting in a flurry of bookings from prospective travellers.
“The Ministry of Health will be working along with all other agencies to make a determination as to what the vaccination policy will look like, but I think it is very clear that the emphasis for Barbados is on preserving lives and livelihoods and we are not in a position where we can say full steam ahead with the tourism industry right now,” Cummins explained.
“We must be able to prioritize people and keeping people safe, but we are absolutely committed at the same time to being able to walk and chew gum. So what we are doing is planning for a safe resumption of the tourism industry when we are able to do so,” she added.
Vaccinations are also said to be a “significant” step as the government seeks to create a series of new tourism products and services that will allow the country to emerge with a strong emphasis on public health and safety.
The minister also reported positive developments in the cruise sector including overwhelming demand for two vessels that have already started selling packages.
Nevertheless, Cummins explained that even in this sub-sector, the Americas Cruise Task Force would continue to examine guidelines from the U.S-based Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and the European Union’s Healthy Sail Guidelines when making decisions. This, the minister explained would include a series of virtual town hall meetings providing greater insight into the protocols that will govern cruise ships operating in this region.
Responding to critics of the industry, Cummins stressed that while the more than 35,000 tourism employees ought not to be placed in harm’s way, they must also be afforded the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families.
“That is not a small number and I think one of the key messages that we have to be able to share with people is that tourism is not this superficial thing that is limited to buildings, nameless faces and capital. There are also real people whose families, children and homes depend on their ability to work and to live. So we must be able to keep them safe while still preserving their ability to having their ambitions, achieving their own goals and supporting their families and putting meals on their tables,” she concluded.