Caribbean tourism is estimated to have suffered $2 billion (US$1 billion) in losses during 2021 consequently of stagnation in travel between the region’s destinations.
In consequence, the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) is recommending that governments and personal sector leaders give you a more concerted effort “to spice up intra-regional travel, while fostering greater parity, clarity and consistency for travel”.
High among the many CHTA recommendations are a discount in travel taxes and a discount in the price for COVID-19 tests.
While international travel to the region has rebounded to 75 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, intra-regional business and leisure travel has dropped to around 30 per cent, with smaller Caribbean economies and small businesses hit particularly hard, in accordance with CHTA President Nicola Madden-Greig.
Visitor arrivals to Bridgetown from the Caribbean was all the way down to only about 14.6 per cent of 2019 figures, recording 16,577 in arrivals in comparison with 113,616. In 2020 Barbados welcomed some 23,793 visitors from the region.
The common number arrivals from the region to Barbados were across the 100,000 mark prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which began to affect the region in March 2020.
Madden-Greig said stimulating intra-regional travel would “dynamize higher local spending, boost trade in local goods and services, increase government revenues and revitalise 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.
“The CHTA also beneficial 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,” the association said in a recent release.
“Moreover, more uniformed and consistent regional travel protocols would scale back traveler uncertainty, while health safety diligence and increased vaccinations are key to speeding up the return of local festivals and events, key elements of intra-regional travel,” it added.
Regional travellers 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, beneficial eliminating travel barriers that add significantly to travellers’ cost and uncertainty, and putting into place low-risk protocols to stimulate travel.
Such protocols would come with asking all travellers within the region to offer proof of a negative COVID-19 antigen test result 24 hours prior to departure when travelling from one Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country to a different.
CHTA also beneficial the elimination of on-arrival testing – and pre-departure testing (when returning home) – for fully vaccinated asymptomatic travellers inside CARICOM jurisdictions, while non-vaccinated travellers could be required to comply with the usual protocols for international travellers.
The CHTA said reducing the profusion of taxes and charges leveled on travellers could be a serious boost to intra-regional travel, adding that a discount in travel fees was hailed by various organisations, 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 CHTA said the measures it was proposing was “met with receptivity by regional air carriers, who indicated that the return of intra-regional travellers is critical to their viability”.
The CHTA President also cited the broad impact intra-regional travellers have on local economies, spending at a high level on local goods and services and moving across the community greater than travellers 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.
The CHTA also called on regional airlines akin 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 shouldn’t be beyond us to get this done,” Madden-Greig reiterated. (MM/PR)