[Reprinted: The Gleaner, 11-11-2020]
Stakeholders in the travel industry want a ‘One Caribbean COVID Protocol’ and a medical wallet that fit the region.
American Airlines vice-president, Latin America, Caribbean and Florida, Christine Valls says unencumbered and swift travel to the region has been stymied, as travel and booking agents have been preoccupied deciphering and validating the different COVID-travel requirements for the various countries in the region.
“Our ticketing agents have become experts in lab results. It’s just not something that is sustainable, particularly, for the airlines where our systems are set up with spokes and hub,” she told delegates in attendance at the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) online economic series tagged ‘Roadmap to Jamaica 2.0: Tourism Recovery’.
To compound the situation, Valls said travellers are coming from a diverse group of destinations.
She said, by standardising travel requirements for all Caribbean countries, clients would be more inclined to making the region their first choice.
Jamaica is one of the most important destinations for American Airlines and come December when some 15 flights per day will be operated into the island, the need for some type of standardisation, in relation to testing protocols, would be of great benefit to the carrier.
One of the proposed solutions for the use of a digital medical wallet, which should allow a smooth flow of passengers, preventing them from missing flights, while trying to decipher requirements.
Valls said, at present, discussions in this regard were ongoing with Jamaica’s tourism and health ministers, as well as Jamaica’s ambassador to the United States Audrey Marks.
According to the airline executive, a uniformed Caribbean COVID protocol would also reduce the bottleneck now being experienced by passengers who land at the Sangster International Airport, where Health Ministry staff and soldiers have been working.
MBJ Airports Limited’s chief executive officer, Shane Munroe agrees that Jamaica must be prepared to engage in bi-lateral arrangements with its largest markets, the US, the UK and Canada in relation to safe requirements for seamless and barrier-free travel.
“If we do not make the entry requirements as seamless as possible, try to move as many people as we can, then we are going to restrict the growth in travel,” he said.
Munroe cited the situation in Mexico, which does not impose quarantine or testing requirements.
He made it clear that he was not advocating the same in Jamaica not noted that in October, Cancun saw 400,000 international passengers while Jamaica saw just 70,000.
“Aviation works based on global standards. For some reason it is absent in this crisis right now, but even after 9-11, what brought back travel was global standards that worked regardless of the state, regardless of the country. And so, those consistent measures restored confidence … And that’s what’s needed now,” he argued.