Caribbean tourism experts are urging regional governments to seriously consider allowing visitors with proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test result to forego current quarantine requirements.
The suggestion was raised Wednesday and immediately picked up traction among industry leaders at an online discussion hosted by the umbrella Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) under the theme ‘Peak Position’.
“Perhaps the time has come for Caribbean destinations to consider allowing people to skip quarantine once they are vaccinated and have a negative COVID-19 test,” Collin Pegler, managing director of resort marketing international, urged his colleagues at the well-supported CTO event.
Barbados Today online quoted Pegler as saying: “…So perhaps we will have to move into a vaccine passport situation. A lot of governments have shied away from this but I can’t see it is a bad thing.
“You got a vaccination and you have a card in your hand that proves that you have had that vaccination along with a negative test up to three days before travel, then I don’t understand the need for somebody to go into quarantine.”
Pegler’s sentiments were echoed in the respected CondeNast Traveller magazine by Dr Karl Minges, chair of health administration and policy at University of New Haven, who said it is fair to assume that soon, hotels, airlines, and immigration services may require proof of vaccination before people are allowed to travel.
“This may be especially true for countries that have near-zero rates of transmission — New Zealand or parts of Australia — and are waiting to vaccinate the entire country,” said Minges. “You could receive a COVID-19 vaccination record to bring with you, for example.”
CTO, which has its headquarters in Barbados, is the Caribbean’s leading tourism development agency, with member countries and territories including the Dutch, English, French and Spanish Caribbean, as well as myriad private sector allied members.
The discussion came against the backdrop of mounting financial woes at all levels of the hospitality industry which has been battered by the novel coronavirus pandemic, triggering massive job losses and upending Caribbean economies.
“While we still have quarantine, we are going to have some serious troubles trying to put volumes into these islands,” Pegler warned, arguing firmly for more certainty and visibility from regional destinations in source markets.
“There is a pent-up demand [for travel] but at the moment there is a fear factor as to what you are going to get when you get to those islands. Are you going to be welcomed, are you going to be put into a quarantine hotel and, in the case of Tobago, are you just not going to be able to go?
“If these islands want to benefit from the surge in bookings that is happening, they have to be open and welcoming, otherwise that business will go to Mexico and other long-haul destinations,” he cautioned.
He contended that the average length of stay for a number of people in the United Kingdom and Europe was just over 10 nights at a luxury property, but that number was not a big concern if quarantine was up to four nights.
However, people coming for three to five nights and who have to spend three of those in quarantine would have a problem.