Barbados prepares to welcome visitors under new COVID-19 vaccination protocols from Saturday with tourism authorities saying the safe reopening of the hotel and hospitality sectors is a priority and sobered by a new development in the island’s largest source market.
Minister of Tourism Senator Lisa Cummins said Friday night that the announcement by the United Kingdom to place Barbados on the amber list of the “traffic light system” for travel could result in a later-than-anticipated revival of the British market.
Senator Cummins said: “The majority of countries are on the amber list. So that means that there are lengthy quarantine periods for citizens going back into the UK. We weren’t expecting to see a significant amount of travel in the first place until later in quarter three then strong in quarter four…we weren’t expecting it for four to seven months to begin with.”
In explaining the UK’s traffic light system of categorising destinations, the minister said the green list on which only 12 countries were placed Friday means those destinations with a minimum to no quarantine restrictions, minimum to no isolation and only the standard PCR test prior to travel and on arrival in the host destination.
Senator Cummins said: “The majority of the world is in the amber list including all major markets, including the United States, and Canada, all of Europe itself and of course, all of the Caribbean.
“Those countries then require the same PCR tests prior to arrival, PCR on arrival in the UK and then the requirement for self-isolation or quarantine for between five to 10 days. That really is where the majority of the world is in relation to travel to the UK.”
“So there is that expectation which has then been confirmed today, even though we were hoping that we would have seen earlier resumption of the season.”
She noted that Canada was still only allowing northbound travel and not southbound flights.
“And so, we are not expecting to see, from tomorrow, any significant travel from Canada, but we are seeing the North American market coming in,” she said.
But the tourism minister told Barbados TODAY that getting hotel workers and other hospitality employees back on the job in full but safely is the Government most important concern right now.
Senator Cummins said: “The key thing at this stage is that we have a number of people who work in the tourism industry who want to be able to get back out to work… a number of hoteliers who want to be able to bring staff back out to work…and they want to be able to get people back into their hotels.
“So, our focus really is on at this point, getting people safely to the stage where they can earn their livelihood and begin to get comfortable again that they have a guaranteed income on a monthly basis. That really is our singular focus.”
But she pointed out that this approach is not limited to Barbados but also the source markets.
“And certainly what we have seen today, is that all of the source markets are tentative about reopening as all of us are,” she stated.
But Senator Cummins said she is confident with the measures put in place by the Ministry of Health with respect to people coming to Barbados.
But she said she is concerned with the lack of vaccine equity which has put countries like Barbados in a difficult position in readily acquiring the medicine.
“There is something fundamentally challenging about countries making determination about Small Island Developing States that are tourism-dependent and whether or not we have high vaccine rates when they are stockpiling huge amounts of vaccines that they are not using and we don’t have the ability to, even on the commercial market, to get reliable supplies of vaccine,” the minister declared.
She said a global dialogue on this issue resulting in tangible results will get “us past this point” and would only then make tourism dependent states like Barbados happy.
At the same time, the tourism minister said long-stay initiatives such as the Barbados Welcome Stamp would also be key to improving tourism numbers and value, considering that the current COVID-19 health restrictions could be a turn-off for short-stay travellers.
Senator Cummins told Barbados TODAY: “There are so many people who on a regular basis are still making contacts with us to say ‘can we come down,’ the people who are here, many of them as saying ‘are we extending the Welcome Stamp?’
“So, very much it remains a flagship product for us especially when you think of things like ‘red list’, and green list and amber list’. What is says to you that short-term travel remains challenging…because if I am quarantining in Barbados for 24 hours as a vaccinated tourist or five days if I am unvaccinated and when I go back to the UK, I am quarantining for a further five days…if you have 10 days on vacation, you certainly don’t plan to spend 10 days in both directions.”
The new protocols include requirements that all travellers must have a valid negative COVID-19 PCR test in order to enter Barbados. On arrival, visitors may be required to take a rapid COVID-19 antigen test at the airport before entry into quarantine.
After arrival, they will be required to quarantine and then have a second PCR test five days after their time of arrival.
A negative PCR test will be needed to leave quarantine.
All travellers must quarantine in their rooms or suites until they are cleared by the Ministry of Health.