Noting the lack of over US$1 billion in 2021 due to a stagnation in travel between the region’s destinations, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) recommends a concerted effort by Caribbean government and personal sector leaders to spice up intra-regional travel, while fostering greater parity, clarity and consistency for travel.
While international travel to the region has rebounded to 75 percent of pre-pandemic levels, intra-regional business and leisure travel has dropped to around 30 percent, with smaller Caribbean economies and small businesses hit particularly hard, in response to CHTA President Nicola Madden-Greig.
Stimulating intra-regional travel, asserted Madden-Greig, would dynamize higher local spending, boost trade in local goods and services, increase government revenues and revitalize local economies.
Among the many steps proposed for revitalizing sluggish local economies were increasing services to revive regional air travel, reducing COVID-19 testing costs, cutting testing time, and shrinking long isolation periods. CHTA also recommends an air travel tax/fee holiday or reduction, just like that which was proposed to Caribbean leaders by Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who’s leading by example with fee reductions for his country.
Moreover, more uniform and consistent regional travel protocols would scale back traveler uncertainty, while health safety diligence and increased vaccinations were key to speeding up the return of local festivals and events, key elements of intra-regional travel.
Regional travelers include Caribbean residents visiting family and friends; attending holiday events, weddings, funerals, reunions and homecomings; conducting business; selling goods and services; participating in training and meetings; and having fun with vacations, festivals, sports and other events.
Reiterating the importance of consistency, CHTA, which speaks for personal sector tourism stakeholders, advisable eliminating travel barriers that add significantly to travelers’ cost and uncertainty, and putting into place low-risk protocols to stimulate travel.
Such protocols would come with asking all travelers within the region to offer proof of a negative COVID-19 antigen test result 24 hours prior to departure when traveling from one Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country to a different.
CHTA also advisable the elimination of on-arrival testing – and pre-departure testing (when returning home) – for fully vaccinated asymptomatic travelers inside CARICOM jurisdictions, while non-vaccinated travelers can be required to comply with the usual protocols for international travelers.
Reducing the profusion of taxes and costs leveled on travelers can be a significant boost to intra-regional travel, and CHTA repeated its call for a discount of travel taxes and costs – a move which the association stated was hailed by various organizations, including the Caribbean Development Bank.
CHTA also reported movement by some governments on working with major regional airlines and the accommodations sector to launch travel incentives to advertise intra-regional travel.
The measures being proposed by CHTA met with receptivity by regional air carriers, who indicated that the return of intra-regional travelers is critical to their viability.
“Despite the pandemic now we have added 4 new destinations within the Eastern Caribbean, adding even greater connection points and increasing the flexibility of business and leisure travelers to maneuver seamlessly throughout the region. We welcome efforts by governments and personal sector partners to place in place additional measures which is able to support and stimulate the return of intra-Caribbean travel,” stated Trevor Sadler, CEO of interCaribbean Airways.
CHTA President Madden-Greig also cited the broad impact intra-regional travelers have on local economies, spending at a high level on local goods and services and moving across the community greater than travelers from outside the region. “We all know that the economic and social linkages are stronger, and the leakages are less as more of the revenue circulates inside our countries and territories, benefiting a variety of companies beyond just the accommodations sector,” stated Madden-Greig.
CHTA also called on regional airlines equivalent to Bahamasair, Caribbean Airlines, Cayman Airways, interCaribbean Airways and LIAT to work collectively with each the private and non-private sectors to seamlessly stimulate intra-regional travel. “It will not be beyond us to get this done,” Madden-Greig reiterated.