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Vaccine mandates extended to the cruise industry

Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen - service providers in the tourism sector must comply with the vaccine mandate

Although tourism officials are optimistic about the livelihood opportunities for scores of Grenadians with the reopening of the cruise season this week following a 1-year interval amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, workers’ are reminded that their ability to provide goods and services to cruise passengers and other tourists, depend upon their willingness to get vaccinated against the deadly coronavirus.

Tourism Minister Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen confirmed the “100%” vaccine requirement, which applies to all attraction sites, craft vendors, taxi and tour operators, and others working in the industry, during a press conference hosted by the Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA) in St. George’s on Monday to announce the resumption of the highly anticipated 2021-2022 cruise season.

According to Minister Modeste-Curwen, over 200 cruise ships are expected to come into the country between November 12 and May 22, 2022, an endeavour which will be “managed in strict accordance with health and safety protocols as guided by the Ministry of Health and global standards in alignment with best practices”.

GTA’s Barbadian-born Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Petra Roach referred to the implementation of the new policy guidelines as “bubble tours.”

The announcement came one (1) day before the St. George’s Cruise Ship Terminal welcomed its first call since the 2019 season on Tuesday, the 134 metres Royal Clipper from Star Clippers Ltd., of Sweden, which carried 73 passengers.

“This (vaccination) is what it boils down to,” Minister Modeste Curwen told reporters, identifying “health” as a “key priority area for visitors,” who, unlike returning nationals are also required to be fully vaccinated to travel to the island.

“One (1) of the key priorities for visitors is safety and security, their health…so, our government has said it is not making vaccines mandatory, and we continue to observe that but the reality is (that) the visitors who are fully vaccinated, and I want to include here, the stay-over passengers, they demand that the persons who attend to them are also fully vaccinated,” she said.

The female government minister also pointed to the stark reality that service providers in the industry would not be able to ply their trade otherwise.

“I think from what was said before, one can easily conclude where this is going to take us. Our visitors have certain requirements (and) they have to meet certain protocols, and so, our service providers have to meet certain protocols…upon disembarkation our guests will be asked to show their vaccination cards, our service providers, whether it’s the tour operators or whatever, they would be asked to show theirs, and therefore vendors would have to comply with the same so that business could happen, because this is one of the agreements with the cruise ships,” she remarked.

When asked about the ministry’s approach towards vaccine reluctancy in the affected sectors, Minister Modeste-Curwen reiterated the principle of “reciprocity,” which is the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit, especially privileges granted by one country or organisation.

The tourism minister, who also expressed concern about the issue of “income generation” regarding these unvaccinated vending population, which is one (1) of the sectors hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, admitted that the ministry has been “a little bit on the backend of having dialogue with all of our stakeholders who include the vendors.”

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“We found ourselves sort of close to the deadline where we couldn’t interface with all of our stakeholders because we needed to be sure that one (1), we have some level of agreement, and that cruise ships were coming…and we had to prioritise the major ones who had direct linkages with the cruise lines…” she said.

The minister also spoke of plans to engage the vendors “in the next few days” offering to “facilitate them in whatever way necessary so that they can fit into the protocols”.

“Those who are vaccinated, we are organising them already in some areas, those who are not vaccinated we are going to work with them to get them vaccinated (and) once persons are fully vaccinated they will be incorporated,” she said.

“They are in varying stages of vaccination, some are still considering but we will be there to support them so that they make the decision that will bring bread and butter to their tables…so, we are working on that aggressively and very assiduously,” she added.

In May 2020, the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Keith Mitchell announced a vaccine mandate for tourism properties and attraction sites, and the GTA began issuing ‘Grenada Safe Vaccination’ stamps of approval to tourism properties, and attractions, where all employees are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

When contacted for an update on the issuance of the stamp, which replaces the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) ‘Pure, Safe Travel’ stamp, and is the world’s first-ever, global safety, and hygiene stamp for travel, and tourism, designed to address COVID-19, and similar outbreaks, GTA Chairman Barry Collymore, was not in a position to provide figures.

“It is a work in progress,” Collymore said when contacted by this newspaper via telephone on Tuesday.

“We are still working on that because we are still actively collecting information…we are actively trying to get people to be compliant…,” he said, adding that a number of people have come forward, and have gotten vaccinated.

“… We are still registering businesses and so on (but) I could say that we are pleased that people are coming forward to get registered and that people are getting vaccinated,” the GTA Chairman remarked.

“I think that we have had remarkable success at the GTA, better than any Caribbean island. Grenada stands with the only fully vaccinated hotel and tourism workforce and most of the restaurants in Grenada are vaccinated as well so this is an accomplishment that not many other places in the world have had”.

“I think that full credit must go to all of the vendors and the hotel workers (because) they are the ones that are stepping forward to get vaccinated to reclaim their livelihoods”.