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GTA reinforces government policy for mandatory vaccination

Barbadian Barry Collymore – now heads the GTA

Tourism officials in Grenada have agreed on a system that would reinforce the government’s newest policy to force frontline workers in the hospitality industry to take the COVID-19 vaccine whether they want to or not.

The new Chairman of the Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA), Barbadian Barry Collymore told reporters in St George’s on Wednesday that hotel and restaurants where all employees are vaccinated against the virus will be placed in a special category and awarded “a stamp of approval”.

The Keith Mitchell-led administration has been engaged in a ‘hard sell’ campaign to get more people in the country vaccinated.

The stamp of approval is a spin-off from the ‘pure, safe travel’ certification which tourism and hospital properties are awarded due to their adherence to COVID-19 prevention protocols.

Collymore acknowledged that scientific data indicates that there is a possibility of virus transmission even in people who have been vaccinated and he said in order to avoid infection escaping into the communities the “Grenada Safe Stamp” is being introduced.

“I am pleased to announce that we are issuing a new ‘Grenada Safe Stamp’ to all properties that have their frontline staff vaccinated. For hotels, restaurants and other attractions that have their frontline staff vaccinated, the former ‘Pure, Safe Travel’ stamp will be replaced by this stamp ‘The Grenada Safe vaccination’ stamp,” he said.

“This will give confidence, it will limit the liability of operators who are welcoming guest and it will serve as a source of comfort and we have tremendous buy-in from the hotel and tourism sector in general,” he added.

According to Collymore, the ‘Pure, safe travel’ approval will have an expiration date and those who adhere to vaccination will qualify for the new approval.

The former Press Secretary to Prime Minister Mitchell told reporters that tour operators would not want to send guests to a hotel where staff who interact with guests are not vaccinated.

He said with large destinations such as Europe and East Asia in shambles due to the pandemic, Grenada has the chance to take of in the international tourism market and to help rebuild the local tourism sector that has suffered huge losses due to COVID-19.

“We have a solution and that solution is through vaccination,” he told reporters.

“At the moment Britain (is) doing very well, this is one of our main source markets, in their vaccination programme. So we have the opportunity to reopen, the opportunity to capture more of that market,” he said.

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Collymore said the total number of vaccinations administered so far is “pretty low” and that if the numbers can increase significantly then Grenada can attract a flood of visitors to the island.

Making a pro-vaccine case Wednesday, the new Chairman touted the scientific data and even announced that his entire GTA Board has taken the vaccine and as a result they will now be able to meet for the first time since the pandemic in a single location.

So far only ten percent of the population of 111, 000 have opted to take the Astra Zeneca double dose vaccine that has been linked to various medical complications in other countries.

In a national address last week, Prime Minister Mitchell announced that all employees at hotels used as quarantine facilities must be vaccinated although there is no law of Constitutional provision that allows the government to force any individual to do so.

Based on the Prime Minister’s address, policy has been set to make vaccination mandatory for frontline workers.

Newly elected President of the Grenada Hotel and Tourism Association (GHTA), Leo Garbutt, was asked whether the membership of the organisation would make vaccination a condition for employment.

He said: “…“It has been designated by the Prime Minister. It’s policy so anyone who works in the hotel and tourism sector has to be vaccinated.”

Garbutt argued that vaccination is necessary if Grenada is to attract airlines.

“Airlines will not come to a destination where they are worried about high incidents of COVID-19”.

Garbutt said the recommendation they have made to tourism officials here is to introduce a policy that anyone coming to Grenada must be vaccinated.

He added that in order to create a safe work environment at tourism and hospitality properties, all service providers such as taxi drivers, tour operators and delivery people should also have to be vaccinated before entering hotel sites.

“Then, if you have guests that (are) vaccinated as well, we have created one of the safest environments in the world,” Garbutt said.

He also pointed out that vaccination in Grenada’s way out of the blow that tourism has suffered because of the pandemic.

Most of Grenada’s hotels are still reeling from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the significant drop in visitor arrivals at the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) at Point Salines.