MIAMI, United States (CMC) — A senior official of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) has welcomed the cooperation between regional governments and public health authorities in their efforts to minimise the effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic and to strengthen Caribbean resilience.
But CHTA Director General Frank Comito says until a vaccine is developed, the Caribbean, with its tourism-dependent economies, has to face facts.
“First, our economies depend on visitors, and second, COVID-19 is not going away soon, so we have to do everything possible to minimise risk to both our residents and visitors while slowly reopening tourism.”
Comito, who is also the CHTA chief executive officer and a member of the COVID-19 Caribbean Tourism Task Force, said the Caribbean had effectively minimised the spread of the disease because regional health authorities, governments, and tourism industry stakeholders were able to adjust and apply health and safety protocols used to effectively manage risks in the past.
He said the Caribbean tourism sector was able to rebound strongly from adversity after developing resilience from experiences such as hurricanes, the 2011 terrorist attack in the United States, Zika, chikungunya, volcano eruptions, and earthquakes.
Comito said traveller confidence in the region would be strengthened by building upon such experiences: “We are seeing an unprecedented level of collaboration and resolve to manage the risks from this new virus. Health safety protocols and guidelines are being put in place, mirroring the international standards which have been recommended and adding more stringent measures.
“Training is underway and significant training and protocols will continue to come on stream. The process has not been easy as we are all treading uncharted waters, but we are all working from the common position of minimising risks to our residents and travellers,” he said.
He noted that notwithstanding the diversity of the region’s countries and territories, he is encouraged that “both the governments and the industry have been taking advantage of the lockdown by preparing for the contingencies, such as health and safety plans and preparing for social distancing, quarantine, isolation, and treatment”.
Comito said he was encouraged by the work being undertaken by many jurisdictions, notably destinations like the US Virgin Islands, Jamaica, St Lucia, Barbados, Puerto Rico, The Bahamas, St Maarten, Aruba, Curaçao, and many others which have been working with tourism and health officials, local hotel and tourism associations, individual hotels, resorts, and the business community to draw up guidelines.
“These are foundational to new operational changes, employee training, and heightened traveller awareness to help provide the health safety assurances we all need,” he added.
Comito said there is no better place in the world for the traveller to escape, refresh, and recover from the challenges the pandemic has wrought:
“The Caribbean’s unmatched natural beauty, our varied and rich experiences, the incredible hospitality of our people — these are our gifts to the world as it seeks to heal,” he added.
Photo: Clear water tumbling down Reach Falls, a tourism attraction in Portland