A top hotel official has brushed off suggestions of fallout from UK tour operator Tradewinds cancelling its deal with two Barbadian hotels and accusing them of “medical apartheid” over a guest vaccine mandate.
The development won’t harm the country’s tourism product as winter bookings continue to rise, Chairman of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) Geoffrey Roach insisted on Thursday.
He made the comment after the British company terminated its contract with Bougainvillea Hotel at Maxwell Coast Road and its sister hotel Sugar Bay on Hastings Main Road in opposition to their proposed mandatory vaccination policy.
According to the new policy, the two hotels will only be accepting vaccinated guests from December 15 at the start of the Winter 2022 season.
The tour operator cancelled its contracts with the hotels, saying the policy “promotes medical apartheid”.
In the message posted on its website, Tradewinds wrote: “We have now terminated our contracts with Sugar Bay BB and Bougainvillea BB, due to their implementation of vaccinated guests only. We will say it again – we will not sell any hotel or airline that promotes medical apartheid.”
But the BHTA chairman said he is not surprised at the actions of the tour operator which he does not expect would tarnish this island’s number one revenue earner at this time.
“The truth is at this stage, I don’t see it having a negative impact because one of the things that our members have had asked of them from potential visitors was whether our teams were vaccinated. So there are people out there… travellers, who are comfortable with the concept of fully vaccinated environments,” Roach told Barbados TODAY.
He said the decision to accept only vaccinated guests is something each business would have to make based on its own circumstances.
“You are hearing people talking about; we are seeing it in the international community. One of two businesses here has considered it. I think it is going to be based very much on the businesses’ circumstances. There will be some backlash, some repercussions as you see with Tradewinds; but that’s to be expected,” said the hotel association chair.
He also said it was too early to say whether an increasing number of hotels would introduce mandatory vaccination policies for visitors, pointing to the relationship which the hospitality sector has with the Social Partnership in seeking to manage the spread of the virus.
Roach said: “We as part of the Social Partnership have committed to work with the Social Partnership to education and awareness.
So that is one of the things we are looking to do.
So when we talk to our members we would get a better sense from them as to how many of them are really thinking about this as an option.”
Asked if mandatory vaccinations for the industry’s employees were the way to go, Roach replied: “It is difficult to say because there are pros and cons on either side. But the truth is that given all the information that we have been fed by the doctors and scientists, for people who want to go that route, I think they are doing it because it creates a safer environment… reducing the risk of transmissibility.”
The BHTA head also could not say if he anticipated other tour operators would follow the example of the Tradewinds.
But he was upbeat in his outlook for hotel occupancy during the Winter season.
Roach told Barbados TODAY: “I can tell you that the last time we looked at the numbers, the numbers are trending up as the months progress through 2021. So the forward bookings are on the increase.”