The US CDC has flagged 22 countries, including 10 in theCaribbean, as no-travel areas because of rising cases of Covid-19.
Regional tourism lobby worries US travel advisories could damage tourism sector

The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) believes that the gains made by Caribbean destinations to ensure the safety of travellers is being eroded by the imposition of travel advisories from the region's major travel markets.

“The region's pace of recovery is being threatened by the imposition of high-risk travel advisories and restrictions put in place by its major travel partners — the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and EU countries,” the CHTA outlined in a statement.

“Ironically, the region has fared better in limiting cases of COVID-19 than its major travel partners have,” it continued, adding that those countries would not issue travel advisories or restrictions on states or provinces where there are outbreaks of the virus.

Earlier this week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) assigned Level Four travel advisories to the Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, St Barthelemy, and St Martin. This listing follows that of The Bahamas, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Grenada, Guyana, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Maarten, Suriname, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The statement from the CHTA indicates that Monsterrat with a Level 2 travel advisory and Anguilla and St Vincent and the Grenadines at Level 3 are the only territories not categorised at highest risk.

On Monday, Air Canada began a period of suspension of flights to Grenada, the Dominican Republic, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Cuba, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Martin/Sint Maarten, and St Kitts and Nevis. The air carrier will lift the suspension of flights on April 30, 2022.

“Regrettably, as parts of the Caribbean have witnessed an increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, we are also seeing an increase in travel advisory levels, particularly by the United States and Canada,” the CHTA said.

“Recognising the short duration and lessened virulence of the Omicron variant, we have seen a reduction of threat levels and opening of travel protocols by the UK and Ontario, Canada, but concurrently have seen more Caribbean jurisdictions being raised to the fourth level by the United States, the region's largest travel partner,” it added.

In the meantime, the CHTA noted that countries' adherence to health and safety protocols has contributed significantly to the safety of visitors and residents, as the region recorded the lowest infection and death rates through the Delta wave.

Moreover, the organisation called on “the region's governments to seek cooperation …of its leading travel partners in reconsidering the high travel advisory levels being imposed on some of the region's jurisdictions”.

With regard to Jamaica's highest risk categorisation, senior advisor and strategist in the Ministry of Tourism Delano Seiveright expressed disappointment with the change in the country's status but underscored the Government's commitment to prioritising the health and safety of Jamaicans and visitors.

However, he stated, “Visitors can feel confident in the comprehensive Jamaica Cares programme protocols developed in conjunction with authorities across the health and tourism sectors.”

“We are optimistic that our resilient corridors and robust health and safety protocols will ensure a return to a lower risk designation soon,” he added.

Like Seiveright, CEO of the Grenada Tourism Authority Petra Roach pointed to the safety of her country and the region, while noting that the CDC travel advisory is a guide that changes frequently.

“Our priority as a country is continuing to market to ensure that Grenada is top of mind when travellers are planning their holiday travel…We also continue to accelerate our training programme with our travel advice partners who have the confidence of their customers in recommending safe travel destinations — of which Grenada is still a firm favourite,” she told the Caribbean Business Report.

Roach added that visitors to Grenada who are fully vaccinated and have negative COVID test results no later than three days old can still visit the country and expect premium travel experiences delivered by travel and tourism business.

Efforts to get a statement from Bahamian and Bajan officials were unsuccessful.

Air Canada has suspended flights to several Caribbean destinationsstarting Monday, January 24, 2022, and ending on April 30, 2022.
BY JOSIMAR SCOTT Senior reporter

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