Hoteliers in Barbados are adopting a different approach from their counterparts in Grenada in the fight against the deadly coronavirus.
The Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) has outlined a plan that calls for frequent testing of employees in the sector and not mandatory vaccination for Covid-19.
THE NEW TODAY has obtained a copy of the BHTA position on the issue:-
Barbados, like all other tourism dependent Caribbean nations has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), “the Caribbean, which is as a region highly reliant upon international visitors, was the worst affected ‘sub-region’ globally. Its Travel & Tourism GDP fell 58% last year, from 14.1% of its total economy in 2019, to just 6.4% in 2020.” (Source: WTTC Economic Trends Report Reveals COVID-19’s Dramatic Impact on Travel & Tourism (traveltrendstoday.in)
The CEO of the BHTA at the June 2021 Annual General Meeting informed that; “There was a 93% decline in visitor arrivals for January, 97.7% decline in February and a 95% decline in March 2021 when compared with these months in 2020. Preliminary figures for April 2021 however show a 702% increase over 2020. In April 2020, the arrivals were 139 visitors, compared to 1,116 in April 2021. That figure is less than 2% of the April 2019 long stay visitor arrivals which was 63,495 persons.”
To assist with the responsible resuscitation of the Barbados’ tourism industry, the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) has devised a draft Vaccination and Testing Protocol for discussion with Government. These draft Protocols have been agreed by the Board of Directors of the BHTA by giving consideration to the safety and protection of locals and visitors, while reflecting on the science and empirical data as it relates to COVID-19.
The health and safety of the employees, guests and all those affiliated with the tourism and hospitality industry remains the primary concern of the BHTA. The management of COVID-19 for persons entering Barbados has a significant focus and collaboration with accommodation providers. Our accommodation providers are ever cognizant of the debilitating effect that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the tourism industry and, by extension, the wider society and economy of Barbados. Few sectors have been harder hit by the continual and unpredictable cycles of transmission and lockdowns than tourism businesses and staff. It is in this context, and to ensure that we safeguard the interest of all those involved in this industry, that we propose the following policies for persons employed by members of the BHTA.
All employees who work in the tourism and hospitality industry will be strongly encouraged to get vaccinated for COVID-19. While the vaccine is not mandatory the evidence is clear that it provides protection against contracting known variants of COVID-19 and against serious illness from the disease. Moreover, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other public health agencies are encouraging vaccinations by all eligible persons.
While our members are fully aware that some employees may choose not to obtain vaccines for religious, medical, or other reasons; the BHTA will be lobbying Government for tourism employees that are not fully vaccinated, or who do not disclose their vaccination status, to be required to have weekly COVID-19 tests as agreed or stipulated by the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW). It is our expectation that these tests will be provided under current arrangements by our public health system. The members are being requested to ensure that these employees are provided with the necessary time off to go and get tested. Regular testing will not be required for those who have provided proof that they are fully vaccinated with an approved course of vaccines.
As it relates to unvaccinated employees the agreed position of the BHTA is that the costs and time associated with testing should be the total responsibility of this employee.
It is proposed that as it relates to businesses which are members of the BHTA, applicants will be required to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination status to be considered for employment.
Existing employees, particularly those that are unvaccinated, should be sensitized and encouraged to maintain protocols not only while on property and on-duty but consistently in their day-to-day activities when off-duty and in their personal day to day and community activities.
The BHTA recognizes that vaccines are crucial to having a safe, productive, and healthy working environment and critical to the continuity and survivability of the tourism and hospitality sector. While we will continue to follow the health and safety protocols that are currently in place to help us to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, we are ever mindful that the only way for us to move forward is to have policies that mitigate against the spread of this virus to our employees and our communities.
To better educate tourism workers about the importance of vaccination the BHTA proposes to partner with the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport and the Ministry of Labour and Social Partnership Relations in the development of specific educational activities and workshops for employees. In addition, the BHTA proposes to collaborate with the Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) in the development of a private sector national vaccination campaign.
The BHTA is supportive of mandatory vaccination of employees especially as it relates to critical sectors such as tourism, hospitality and health. However, given the limited access to the necessary quantities of approved vaccines, the BHTA will advocate for the frequent mandatory testing of employees to minimize against the spread of the ever-mutating COVID-19 virus. The BHTA recommits to working with Government, labour and the private sector to ensure that the sustainable development of the tourism industry continues to significantly contribute to the economic growth and viability of our island.