Recently the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) wrote to the White House about unnecessary COVID protocols that are existing in spite of the science, and which are proving a major hindrance to the recovery of travel and in particular the tourism industry.
ASTA’s President and CEO Zane Kerby – a name with which I am sure many of our hospitality stakeholders on island will be familiar – called on Jeffrey Zients, President Biden’s COVID-19 Recovery Team Coordinator, to do away with the requirement for US citizens to provide a negative test to return to their own country after travelling abroad.
Barely had the ink dried on that letter did numerous industry stakeholders including Airlines for America representing all major US carriers, the US Travel Association, the US Chamber of Commerce and the International Air Transport Association immediately joined the call pushing for easier travel rules.
The common agreement among them all was that the inbound testing order remains the single biggest barrier to the full recovery of the international travel system on which so many of our members, and their clients, rely for their livelihoods.
Which region of the world has a greater stake in the recovery of robust international travel than the Caribbean, one of the planet’s leading tourism destinations? I am therefore astounded at the deafening silence from our regional leaders, in particular the body entrusted with representing the interests of the region; CARICOM.
I would think, or certainly hope that CARICOM adds its voice to the growing chorus of organizations clamouring for a more common sense approach to travel, and that they too advocate having unnecessary restrictions reviewed, even in our own islands!
I have always held firm that COVID has shown up CARICOM and its inability to find common ground and to successfully represent the interests of our people, our societies, our economies and our islands. Be that as it may, the hour is not yet so late that CARICOM cannot still seize the opportunity to do something positive for the region, particularly with respect to the crucial tourism sector, which is a key if not THE key economic pillar on which so many islands depend.
If we cast our eyes across the Atlantic, we would notice that several countries have already followed the lead of the UK to abolish unnecessary COVID restrictions including France, Ireland, the Netherlands and several Nordic countries and they have done so successfully.
Science leads that way. To keep throttling the life-breathe of travel and tourism by fast outdated restrictions which have no or little impact on controlling the spread of the virus is antithetical to overall recovery, which involves not just lives, but the livelihoods on which lives depend.
O’ CARICOM, where art thou? Especially in this time of greatest need?