This week, the European Union's Healthy Gateways working group released interim advice for the resumption of cruise ship operations. The guidance is not binding and is subject to change as the pandemic progresses, but it is based on European Commission guidelines for the travel industry.
The group's recommendations are comprehensive, covering everything from voyage planning and infection prevention through public health response measures. They include:
- A gradual overall approach to restarting operations, with shorter voyages of 3-7 days and a limited number of port calls;
- A written outbreak management and contingency plan;
- Prior arrangements with ports of call for medical treatment, ambulance transport, quarantine, air evacuation and other services that might be required in the event of an onboard outbreak;
- Ensuring availability of access to repatriation flights in the event of a partial or complete ship evacuation. This would include at least one port on the itinerary with international flight service allowing passengers and crew to go home - a significant challenge in recent months;
- Pre-approved onshore quarantine arrangements for known close contacts of COVID-positive individuals;
- Shoreside isolation arrangements and facilities for people who test positive but do not have symptoms;
- Adequate testing capacity, either on board or by arrangement with a shoreside lab;
- Pre-departure lab testing for all crewmembers, followed by routine health monitoring and periodic surveillance testing;
- Regular tabletop exercises with cruise ship crews for contingency drills;
- Formal assurances and procedures for informing the next port of call about an onboard outbreak;
- Reducing capacity to allow for social distancing, including an allowance in berthing capacity to isolate individuals in single cabins;
- Reduced face-to-face contact between passengers and staff, including altered arrangements for booking and reception;
- Universal use of face masks in indoor areas by both passengers and crew;
- Continuous ventilation of all occupied spaces;
- Physical distancing of 1.5 meters in most indoor spaces and entertainment venues;
- and limits on the usage of pools and hot tubs, including the closure of indoor pools.
The guidelines recommend preboarding screening measures, but they note that "screening measures may not identify mild symptoms, asymptomatic, incubating travellers or those concealing symptoms," indicating that screening is one tool among many required for a successful reopening.
The full list of recommendations is attached below
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the industry's largest representative body, said Wednesday that it broadly supports the interim guidelines. "The primary concern of CLIA and its member lines is the health and safety of its passengers and crew," said CLIA Europe secretary-general Tom Boardley in a statement. "This guidance from the public health authorities in Europe provides a useful resource for cruise lines as they prepare to resume operations.”
What are the mandatory security measures? Which destinations open first? What will the de-escalation process be like for the state and private sectors? How will national tourism coexist with international tourism?
by Eric Caraballoso
July 5, 2020
This July 1st Cuba officially opened its first hotels to international tourism. It did so only in keys adjacent to the island after three months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, without clear indications of its possible convocation and short-term economic success, and with the imperative to apply strict hygiene and safety measures to prevent new outbreaks that would represent a reversal in today’s controlled epidemiological scenario of the country.
The decision, announced days ago by the Ministry of Tourism (MINTUR), only foresees the arrival of foreign visitors to Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Cruz, Cayo Santa María and Cayo Largo―the first four located in the northern keys of the center of the island, and the last one, in the south of western Cuba―, from which for the time being tourists will not be able to leave. Meanwhile, other hotel and non-hotel facilities have already opened their doors to the national market, as part of the beginning of the post-COVID-19 stage.
The first phase of the de-escalation, which has already ended in most of the Cuban provinces and which Havana entered this Friday, seeks to be the first step towards a gradual and highly complex recovery, both due to the global impact of the pandemic and the difficulties and burdens typical of the Cuban economic scenario in which tourism has a fundamental weight.
After an unfortunate 2019, in which the island’s tourism industry went from an initial forecast of more than 5 million visitors to not reaching 4.3 million―which represented a decrease of 9.25%―, due to events such as the U.S. government prohibition of cruises and restriction of flights to Cuba, MINTUR had bet on a discreet growth of its operations in 2020. The goal was to reach 4.5 million tourists and partially recover its finances affected by the previous year’s decline, promoting emerging markets such as the Russian and Chinese, and trying to maintain or recover the shares of traditional markets such as Canada and European countries.
And then, COVID-19 arrived
The pandemic froze tourist activity in the world and suddenly deprived Cuba of one of its main sources of income―the second, according to published figures, behind the sale of professional services abroad, and responsible for 10% of the GDP and half a million jobs―by causing the cancellation of numerous reservations, the closure of hotels and the hasty departure of many tourists―more than 70,000 in ten days, according to official data―after the first cases were reported in March―precisely foreign visitors―and the Cuban authorities’ decision to close the country’s borders.
This is why it is not surprising that since the start of the post-COVID-19 stage was announced, tourism has had the sights set by many from inside and outside the island. Or, even long before, because, even in a commercial pause, the sector did not stay with its arms crossed and practically from the start of its forced stand by began to prepare for the return. Despite the closure of the borders―whose opening, foreseen for the third phase of the de-escalation, still has no definite date―some facilities remained with stranded tourists, foreign businessmen and health personnel, or functioned as isolation centers. In addition, investments did not stop, the closure of many hotels was used to work on their improvement and maintenance, advertising campaigns were redesigned and sanitary protocols for the restart of activities were prepared.
The challenge for the Cuban tourism sector is, then, to balance economy and health; try to make up for a clearly nefarious year and contribute as much as possible to the diminished state coffers, at times when many doors remain closed. But, at the same time, doing so without jeopardizing Cuba’s achievements in the control of the disease and seeking to highlight, along with its attractions and traditional values, new values based on the hygiene and safety of its destinations, which in the opinion of experts will gain greater relevance in the reconfiguration of the smokeless industry during the post-pandemic.
Phases and protocols
Like the rest of the social and economic activities, Cuban tourism has its own de-escalation strategy. It was prepared by MINTUR following the phases established for the post-COVID-19 stage on the island and the recommendations of the health authorities. In a recent television appearance, Minister of Tourism Juan Carlos García Granda commented that the protocols developed seek to guarantee guests’ safety and enjoyment, and are in accordance with the indications issued by the World Health Organization, the World Tourism Organization and were advised and approved by the Cuban Ministry of Public Health.
As is already known, the establishment of the different phases is carried out gradually and asymmetrically, depending on the epidemiological situation of each Cuban province. The first of them began last June 18 and ended this Thursday in almost the entire island, except in Havana and Matanzas―which joined days later―and in the specific case of tourism, it contemplates opening only to the national market, which includes not only part of the hotel network but also the camping bases distributed throughout the country.
To start operating, all facilities must obtain a sanitary certification that certifies their safety and, once opened, maintain 24-hour clinical-epidemiological surveillance, with the presence of medical personnel and a hygiene specialist. Another key to its operation is to ensure physical distancing between guests and workers. In the case of hotels, these operate with all their services and their occupation is dependent on their own conditions, while camping bases operate at a maximum of 60% of their capacity. As for non-hotel services and nightclubs located in hotels, what is established is an occupation of between 30 and 50%.
The protocol followed in this phase also contemplates the screening and daily measurement of body temperature for workers and guests, the mandatory disinfection of hands, surfaces, premises, equipment and means of transportation used―in the latter, the use of the facemask or disposable mask will be mandatory; the use of elevators and pools only at 50% of their capacity; the organization of services in swimming pools, restaurants and other common areas to guarantee physical distancing; and the removal of materials and objects which cannot be disinfected, such as magazines and pamphlets.
Likewise, people, and in particular workers with respiratory symptoms, will not be allowed to enter the facilities and those who present them will be referred to a health center. Employees also have the responsibility to declare if they detect the presence of any person who is ill or suspected of being ill, and to use the facemask in risk areas. In addition, the MINTUR established a distance of at least 1.0 meter for all tasks and where the use of protection means is not possible, delimitation barriers between tourists and workers must be used, or the processes should be redesigned, with emphasis on their digitization.
The arrival of the first foreign tourists, like the one that was supposed to start this Wednesday, was scheduled for a second moment of the de-escalation. In it, as is already mentioned at the beginning of the work, the beginning of operations is limited to Cayo Largo, Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Cruz and Cayo Santa María, and tourists will be isolated from the island’s other territories and population. Therefore, they will only be able to circulate inside the key where they vacation and car rentals, excursions and nautical activities will also be limited to this place. Sailing to Cuba is still prohibited.
Visitors, who will arrive on charter flights to the tourist destinations’ respective airports, will undergo a PCR test with a view to detecting the possible presence of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, and in the event that any of them present symptoms during their stay, they will be isolated in premises established for this within the hotels. Likewise, the facilities will maintain medical attention and constant clinical-epidemiological surveillance of guests and workers, as well as the remaining health and safety measures established for national tourism.
However, the measures published by the MINTUR do not specify what would happen to those visitors who test positive for the virus and their contacts, although presumably they would be treated and hospitalized―at least, initially―on the island, following the same protocol of hospitalization and treatment that has already been applied to foreign visitors who were detected with the disease in the country before the suspension of flights and tourist operations.
As for the workers of these hotels, a residence regime was established within the tourist destination and a mandatory quarantine of seven days after their leave. At the end of the surveillance period, a rapid test should be made. Those who cannot comply with the conditions of this work system will have the same job treatment they had during the pandemic, which, without a doubt, although it would guarantee them certain rights, would have a negative impact on their pockets.
For the third phase, the start of which is very difficult to predict today amidst the expansive global pandemic scenario, the Cuban government has planned to open all its destinations to international tourism. Also, the reestablishment of circuits, although with limitations on the maximum number of customers, and the maintenance of hygiene and safety measures implemented from the first phase, including sanitary certification of facilities, medical care and permanent clinical-epidemiological surveillance, and the establishment in hotels of isolation conditions for tourists with respiratory symptoms.
At this point, the country’s borders would already be open, so, in theory at least, many visitors would arrive in Cuba on their own, would tour the island according to their own plans, and not just previously contracted tour packages, they would stay in private homes―as of the first phase, private landlords can host national tourists, but not foreigners―and they would exchange, without great restrictions, with the Cuban population, for which control at the border and respect for the measures established at a social level and not only the sanitary protocols of the hotels would gain prominence to avoid them becoming a source of new outbreaks.
CUBAN TOURISM / 1ST PHASE
IN POST-COVID-19 STAGE
Opening only for national market (Cubans and foreign residents)
Expansion of points of sale and online bookings
Hotel occupancy according to each facility and prioritizing physical distancing
Non-hotel services and night spots with 30-50% occupancy
Application of the established hygiene and safety protocol
CUBAN TOURISM / 2ND PHASE
IN POST-COVID-19 STAGE
Opening to international tourism only on Cuba’s keys (Cayo Largo, Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Cruz and Cayo Santa María)
Tourists’ isolation from rest of the Cuban territories and population
Car rental, nautical activities and excursions, only on the keys
Ban on sailing around Cuba
Application of the established hygiene and safety protocol
CUBAN TOURISM / 3RD PHASE
IN POST-COVID-19 STAGE
Opening of all destinations for international tourism
Reestablishment of circuits, with limitations in the maximum number of customers
Conditions of isolation in hotels for foreign tourists with respiratory symptoms
Maintaining hygiene and safety measures implemented since the first phase
Outside and inside
Based on the guidelines established by the MINTUR and the Cuban government, the country’s hotel groups (Gran Caribe, Islazul, Gaviota, Cubanacán) and foreign chains such as Meliá, have already been announcing their own measures, opening of facilities, bookings and advertising campaigns, which emphasize safety as the value of their offers―“Yours and Safe,” for example, is the name of the Cubanacán group’s campaign, presented last week to the press―and seek to make up for lost time and earnings as much as possible. However, for now the outlook is uncertain, at least as far as international tourism is concerned.
Cuba’s main tourist source markets―Canada, Russia, Europe―remain closed or with strong restrictions for their travelers, and what could happen in the coming months remains uncertain. The economist and expert on tourism issues José Luis Perelló, in statements to the AP press agency, considered that this July 1’s opening is rather “a sign” by Cuba for potential and future customers, and not a possibility of real short-term recovery. “The first thing you need to know is who is willing to go sightseeing this year.”
For its part, Sunwing, Canada’s largest travel provider, affirmed they had “no immediate plans to start operating flights to Cuba,” but that it hoped “that the restrictions will soon begin to ease.” Meanwhile, a Cuban press report acknowledged this Wednesday that “travel agencies and tour operators still lack concrete information on the first flights to the island for foreigners,” although it stated that “at the time they stated they had received several interests regarding this issue from all over the world.”
What happens from now on can be seen then as a kind of rehearsal, a gradual set-up facing perhaps the peak season, which usually begins in November―coinciding with the winter months in the northern hemisphere, where the bulk of the tourists that usually visit Cuba live―or, even, 2021, depending on how the pandemic and the economy evolve. The Cuban authorities have not even ruled out intermediate steps within the de-escalation, such as a gradual reopening to the foreign market of Varadero beach resort, already open to national tourists, always depending on possible demand and establishing a geographic segmentation in the destination, to avoid contact between Cuban and foreign visitors before the third phase is officially decreed.
Already in that phase, with the reopening of the borders and the restart of international flights, Cubans residing outside the island must also begin to arrive, a sector not negligible not only for its social but also economic impact, which in 2019 added almost 624,000 visits to Cuba, of them, more than 552,000 from the United States. And although they stay mainly with family and rental houses, they also make hotel reservations for themselves and/or their families, go on excursions, rent cars, go to nightclubs, restaurants and swimming pools, and hire other non-hotel services.
However, the fact that this climactic moment of the de-escalation does not have a clear date for now and that the complex epidemiological situation in the United States, where most of the Cuban emigrants live and travel from, greatly complicates any forecast in the short or medium term, conspires against their possible contribution. Also the fact that, even if the flights from the United States are finally authorized by Havana, the flow would no longer approach that of last year, not only due to the forced interruption by the coronavirus, but also due to the prohibitions and cuts established by Washington for air operations to the island.
In any case, for Cuba’s tourism it is a chimera to try to approach the figures forecast for this year―the MINTUR has not even ventured to launch a new forecast―and the drop in foreign visitors and the consequent income they generate―some 4 billion dollars between the state and private sectors, according to unofficial estimates―could be fatal for the island’s economy.
The other side of the coin is national tourism. Although it does not have―at least not yet―the potential to revitalize the sector and multiply its profits on the same level as foreign visitors, the domestic market has been growing in recent years and in 2020 it could have an even greater weight. According to official figures, in 2018 there were more than 1.6 million national tourists, which meant an increase of 23.4% compared to 2017; while last summer the increase was 15% in hotels in CUC (Cuban convertible pesos), according to the then head of the sector, Manuel Marrero, today the country’s prime minister.
It is difficult to know if this figure could be equaled or exceeded this year, taking into account the economic contraction that affects not only the state coffers but also personal pockets―for not a few Cuban families, surely today it is much more of a priority to get the few and highly demanded food products and toiletries than to go to a hotel for their vacation ―and the logical limitations that, even in de-escalation, the COVID-19 entails. However, the MINTUR did not hesitate to quickly target this market sector as soon as the progressive return to normality was announced and, together with the more than 70 camping bases opened in the first phase, the different chains have started promoting hotels and other services for Cubans.
To the reservation offices of the chains themselves and tour operators such as Havanatur, Cubatur and Ecotur, which according to the authorities of the sector have been increased―including mobile points of sale―to distribute the influx of customers, online booking has also increased through the agencies’ websites and the Transfermóvil application, whose use by Cubans, both to pay for electricity and to buy a product from virtual stores, has grown in recent times along with the increase in connectivity on the island. The online variant also includes the possibility of reservations from abroad, made in dollars, euros or other currencies, by family or friends of the vacationers.
For now, according to some press reports and comments from managers of the chains themselves, demand by the domestic market is marching at a good pace. In the eastern province of Holguín, for example, where the much-liked Guardalavaca beach resort is located, requests have been above the available reservations―around 60% of hotel capacity―, according to Maikel Robert, marketing specialist from the MINTUR Territorial Delegation, quoted by Prensa Latina news agency.
CUBAN TOURISM /HYGIENE AND SAFETY PROTOCOL FOR NATIONAL TOURISM
IN POST-COVID-19 STAGE
Sanitary certification of tourist facilities
Round the clock clinical-epidemiological surveillance in hotels
Presence of medical personnel in hotels and camping bases
Daily taking of body temperature of workers and customers
Ban on entrance of workers with respiratory symptoms
Mandatory disinfection of hands, surfaces and transport
Use of elevators and swimming pools only at 50% capacity
Physical distancing in swimming pools, restaurants and common areas
Use of facemask in transportation means and risk areas
Withdrawal of materials and objects that can’t be disinfected
CUBAN TOURISM / HYGIENE AND SAFETY PROTOCOL FOR NATIONAL TOURISM
IN POST-COVID-19 STAGE
PCR test for tourists on their arrival in Cuba
Isolation conditions for tourists with respiratory symptoms
Residence regimen in tourist destination for workers
Mandatory seven-day quarantine and a rapid test for workers who go on leave
Round-the-clock surveillance, as well as the rest of the established measures for national tourism
Similar news comes from other Cuban provinces and, although official figures and forecasts have not yet been released, presumably this trend should continue. This presumption is based, among other factors, on the recent reopening of Varadero, one of the destinations preferred by the island’s inhabitants, at the beginning of the summer months―traditionally those with the national market’s highest demand―and in the beginning in Havana of the first phase of the post-COVID-19 stage, which would not only allow the entry into operation of tourist facilities in the capital but also the making of reservations by Havanans, undoubtedly due to their number and average purchasing power, one of the key groups for national tourism.
It remains then to wait for the advance of the current tourist season in Cuba, its possible figures distributed between the domestic market and international visitors, the application of its phases and steps for de-escalation and the effectiveness of its sanitary protocols to prevent new outbreaks of COVID-19 on the island. The Cuban smokeless industry has already started its engines, but in the very complex current context, this is not enough. It is not enough for the locomotive to start running; customers are also needed as well as preserving health and safety to reach a good destination.
“From all indication, LIAT will be liquidated,” Prime Minister Gaston Browne has just announced.
The Prime Minister said there will be a meeting of all shareholders shortly to discuss collapsing LIAT.
A new entity will be formed.
“COVID would have actually, let’s say increased the losses exponentially, so whereas in all of 2019 LIAT made a loss of about EC$12 million, that was within the means of the shareholder governments to subsidize,” Browne said on local radio in Antigua.
“You would have found that since COVID, the planes have been grounded, they have to pay the lease payments and they are not getting any revenue.
“A decision will have to be made to collapse it and then maybe the countries within the region will have to come together to form a new entity,” Browne added.
The Antigua and Barbuda leader says he cannot see the region moving forward without a form of connectivity and you cannot have an integration movement if people cannot connect.
New entity will require full cooperation
Browne said the new entity will require full cooperation with a mixture of public and private capital.
“What I’m hoping that we do not have going forward with the new entity, is any squabble over the location of the headquarters,” Browne said.
“At the end of the day, the only service that Antigua and Barbuda has enjoyed … within CARICOM is LIAT and this has been the case for several decades.
“So I just hope that we are not going to have countries within the region opportunistically fighting us to get the headquarters in their country to displace Antigua and Barbuda,” added Browne.
Leeward Island Air Transport was established in 1956 on the island of Montserrat. In 1971 Court Line Aviation of the UK acquired control and renamed the airline LIAT. Ownership of the airline was acquired by 11 Caribbean Governments in 1974 and it was renamed LIAT (1974) Ltd.
Formation of new entity must be swift
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Browne said the formation of the new entity must be done swiftly.
“Back in 1974 when LIAT was collapsed, my understanding is that it took a day to start the the operation of a new entity,” he said.
“It may be a little more difficult to get it done within 24 hours and I do understand that there are a number of stakeholders that we have to satisfy, especially creditors and I believe that we could do a work out with the various creditors and to literally get some arrangement in which they can accept that we are not conveniently closing LIAT 1974 Ltd. The governments cannot go any further with it.
“And these creditors, including the staff of LIAT, have to understand that there will have to be some level of cooperation to include possibly some cuts on their liabilities in order to facilitate the creation of a new, viable and sustainable entity,” Browne said.
Not enough assets to satisfy all creditors
The Prime Minister made the point that LIAT does not have sufficient assets to satisfy the requirements or claims of most of its creditors, including the airline’s employees.
“LIAT only owns three planes and those planes are charged to the Caribbean Development Bank, so clearly they have a superior claim and after they would have covered their claim there will be hardly any assets available to liquidate severance and other liabilities to staff and other creditors, so there has to be a negotiated position,” Browne said.
“The governments won’t be bandits and just walk away from the staff, they will have to pay some form of compassionate payments to assist them. But they have to understand that they are legally vulnerable and that they have to look at the bigger picture and to cooperate, not to become litigious and to prevent the creation of a new LIAT.”
‘We should not run away from the name LIAT’
Browne is already making it clear that he would want the new entity to retain LIAT in its name.
“We should not be running away from the name LIAT,” he said.
“LIAT is a Caribbean institution built by Caribbean people of which we should be proud. Many institutions in the US in the aviation industry, including American Airlines, they have gone belly-up many times over. They never discontinued the name American Airlines. Americans are proud to support the name American Airlines, but whereas they have their Chapter 11 protection, we don’t have that in our laws.
“And that is why you need this level of creditor cooperation in order to ensure that we can form a new entity,” Browne said.
Hundreds will lose jobs
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister said the new airline will be much leaner that the current LIAT, which employs hundreds throughout the region.
“Let’s face it, it’s going to be a right-sized entity. You are going to have significant job losses, there’s no doubt about it. Hundreds of people are going to lose their work, it is inescapable” Browne said.
“But if you are going to have a new entity that is scaled down, that is viable, that is efficient, that can meet the connectivity needs of the Caribbean people, then clearly that has to be the option that we pursue.”
LIAT was founded by aviation pioneer, Sir Frank Delisle in October 1956. He was LIAT’s sole employee, operating one three-seater Piper Apache aircraft flying between Antigua and Montserrat.
In 1957 the airline extended its route structure to include St Eustatius, St Maarten and St Kitts. It also added one six-seater Beechcraft Twin Bonanza to its fleet.
LIAT made its first operating profit of EC$653,000 in 1982.
More than three months after first suspending cruises from U.S. ports, operators said they will now continue that pause for another two months — if not longer.
Cruise Lines International Association, a trade group, said in a statement Friday that its members would voluntarily extend the suspension until Sept. 15 or later if necessary. That’s almost two months after a no-sail order issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is scheduled to lift on July 24.
“Although we had hoped that cruise activity could resume as soon as possible after that date, it is increasingly clear that more time will be needed to resolve barriers to resumption in the United States,” the association said in a statement.
Carnival Cruise Line had tentatively said it hoped to resume cruising on Aug. 1 with eight ships, though the line said the plan was “contingent on a number of factors." On Monday, the cruise company announced it was canceling all cruises through Sept. 30.
“We have watched with great interest as commerce, travel and personal activities have begun to start back up, and once we do resume service, we will take all necessary steps to ensure the health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities we bring our ships to in order to maintain public confidence in our business," Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy wrote in a letter to travel agents and guests with bookings. “Nevertheless, we apologize for disrupting your vacation plans and appreciate your patience as we work through these decisions.”
Royal Caribbean International had also said that its goal was to start operations again on Aug. 1 but offered no guarantees. Many lines have canceled specific cruises well past Sept. 15, especially in areas that are prohibiting ship visits. The additional suspension applies to cruise lines that can carry more than 250 people on a ship, which are included in the CDC’s no-sail order.
Some operators have detailed plans for a return to the sea, including measures such as temperature checks, limited occupancy, social distancing on board, extra sanitation and improved air filtration systems. Virgin Voyages, with one ship whose launch has been delayed months already, said it was working to find a rapid test to make sure only those who test negative for covid-19 are allowed on board.
Bari Golin-Blaugrund, a CLIA spokeswoman, said in an email that cruise lines have handed over their plans to the CDC, and that the agency is still considering what criteria must be met for ships to carry passengers again.
“Although we are confident that future cruises will be healthy and safe, and will fully reflect the latest protective measures, we also feel that it is appropriate to err on the side of caution to help ensure the best interests of our passengers and crew members,” the cruise association said in its statement. “The additional time will also allow us to consult with the CDC on measures that will be appropriate for the eventual resumption of cruise operations.”
The CDC supports the industry’s voluntary suspension of operations, spokesman Scott Pauley said in an email Monday. He noted that cruise passengers often come from populations at high risk of severe illness, and that even with reduced numbers of people on a ship, the agency has seen ongoing spread of covid-19 “due to the congregated setting and greater chance of closer physical contact.”
“CDC has continued (and continues) to have regular conversations and emails with the cruise line industry and cruise ship operators, often on a daily basis, as we worked to review response plans submitted by the cruise lines to CDC under the No-Sail Order,” Pauley said in the email. “CDC will continue to evaluate and update our recommendations as the situation evolves.”
There haven’t been a lot of Canadians arriving so far, but Jamaica’s re-opening is going well after a week of open borders.
Speaking with TravelPulse Canada on a Zoom call on Monday, Donovan White, Director of Tourism for the Jamaica Tourist Board, said things have gone well after a couple days of fine-tuning.
“We’re doing things in a safe and responsible way to allow visitors to have their vacations and still enjoy Jamaica,” he said.
There are a number of new rules in place for tourists, White said. One of the most innovative programs, and one that hasn’t received a lot of attention in the travel press, is Jamaica’s so-called COVID-Resilient Corridor, a tourism ribbon that stretches from Negril to Montego Bay and on to Ocho Rios and Port Antonio.
The corridor allows Jamaican authorities to “have a controlled environment within the tourism spaces where our guests can be, so in the event there is an emergency and we have any positive testing we can track and trace those persons relatively quickly and efficiently.”
White said only hotels and resorts that are certified by health authorities have been allowed to re-open in this phase, and that hotels in the corridor are all on the beach side of the highway. Roads on the other side of the highway, which usually lead to smaller towns and villages, aren’t open for tourists.
“Only accommodations within this corridor are allowed to be open” in Jamaica’s first phase of reopening, he said.
White said all travellers to Jamaica have to complete what’s called a Travel Authorization Form before they arrive. Once they land, health screeners meet visitors to talk about their health, go over their Travel Authorization Form and determine if they have any symptoms. Passengers then go to have their passports stamped at immigration before proceeding to baggage claim. More health workers are at the baggage claim area to chat with visitors about where they’re staying. Anyone not staying within the dedicated corridor can download the Jamaica COVID-19 tracking app, White said.
After baggage claim and customs, all arriving visitors have to undergo a nasal swab for COVID-19. Results come within 24 to 48 hours, during which guests are expected to stay at their hotel or other accommodation.
“Hotels have implemented very good, very rigid standards when it comes to room sanitization and social distancing,” White said. Rooms are deep cleaned, and hotel doors are sealed after cleaning, among other protocols.
If tests come back negative, visitors to the island can explore places within the designated corridor. But it’s pretty much just the hotels that are open. White said attractions and restaurants are still closed in this phase of Jamaica’s re-opening.
If a visitor tests positive for the coronavirus, they’re immediately isolated in a special hotel room and given medical attention around the clock. If necessary, patients can be transferred to medical facilities or a hospital.
Hotels are paying for the medical costs of arriving guests at this point, but White said a new health care program for visitors could be announced soon.
Right now, the only flights from Canada are twice-a-week routes from Toronto to Kingston, although he expects AC will bring back a flight to Montego Bay in the coming month or so. There are some tourists, but most passengers are returning Jamaicans or folks visiting family or loved ones, White said. He also said major US airlines are flying to Jamaica, including American, Delta and JetBlue.
“Once Canadian authorities lift some of the restrictions on folks returning to Canada, we expect some demand to return,” White said. He agreed that major influxes of tourists likely won’t take place until the fall, when the weather cools in North America.
White said Jamaica didn’t expect a flood of international visitors to begin immediately when restrictions were lifted on June 15.
“The number one challenge we wanted to overcome is to begin to put people back to work, and to begin to use the opportunity to restart our largest industry. The tourism industry employs more than 350,000 workers, and over 90% would have lost their jobs or been furloughed during COVID-19.”
White said there have been roughly 657 cases of COVID-19 in Jamaica and just 10 deaths. In a country with 2.9 million people that’s remarkable. Toronto has almost the same population and has had more than 1,000 deaths.
“The Caribbean is one of the regions of the world that has done extremely well,” White explained. “In fact, in Jamaica I’d like to take the opportunity to really laud our frontline health workers and our health ministry for really putting in a rigid risk management approach to managing the virus and being able to contain and trace cases and being able to manage outbreaks, small outbreaks, very rapidly.”
It was that strong performance that allowed Jamaica to keep deaths to a minimum and allow them to re-open the borders this month.
So far, the re-opening has gone well.
“It’s still early days. We’re not expecting a V-shaped recovery by any stretch of the imagination.”
White said experts believe it will take Jamaica 18 to 24 months or a little longer before it can reach pre-COVID-19 arrival numbers.
“We’re looking at maybe the second quarter of 2023,” he said.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is clear: the application of tests to detect COVID-19 should not be a necessary aspect to resume international air operations or reopen borders.
The organization, made up of more than 290 airlines and 120 countries, is one of the main instruments of air cooperation in matters of security and operation. Precisely, together with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), it develops protocols and proposals to resume activity in the midst of the crisis caused by COVID-19.
The application of tests to detect the coronavirus is at the center of the debate on reopening international flights. Not all countries are in a position to apply them and there are sectors that fear that their mandatory nature will become a barrier to reactivate air activity.
On June 16, the ICAO published Takeoff Guidance which is the global guidance for governments to follow in reconnecting their people and economies by air. Takeoff outlines layers of measures to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission during air travel and the risk of importation of COVID-19 via air travel.
This body is proposing that the tests should preferably be applied to passengers from countries classified as “high risk”.
“Technology for rapid point-of-care Polymerized Chain Reaction (PCR) testing could be a useful layer of protection for travelers from countries considered as higher risk, potentially removing the need for more burdensome and intrusive measures such as quarantine which is a major barrier to travel and the recovery of demand,” detailed IATA.
“Airlines are committed to reducing the risks of COVID-19 transmission via air travel and COVID-19 testing could play an important role. But it must be implemented in line with ICAO’s global re-start guidance with the aim of facilitating travel. Speed, scale and accuracy are the most critical performance criteria for testing to be effectively incorporated into the travel process,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
As part of the travel process COVID-19 testing would need to be conducted by trained public health officials and meet the following criteria:
Speed: Testing results should be delivered quickly, with results available in under an hour as the minimum standard.
Scale: If testing takes place at the airport, testing capacity of several hundreds of tests per hour must be achievable. The use of saliva for taking samples rather than nasal or throat swabs would facilitate this and would also be expected to reduce time and improve passenger acceptance.
Accuracy: Extremely high accuracy is essential. Both false-negative and false-positive results must be below 1%.
According to IATA, the tests would be necessary from before arriving at the airport and in a range of 24 hours before boarding the flight. This would reduce the risk of contagion within the air terminals and allow positive passengers to be isolated. That is, if someone is sick with the coronavirus, they would not be able to travel. The airline should assist with refunds or re-booking for the passenger.
“If testing is required as part of the travel process, it is recommended upon departure. Governments would have to mutually acknowledge the results, and data transmission should take place directly between passengers and governments, similar to how e-visa permits are currently handled. Any testing requirement must be in effect for as long as necessary. In order to guarantee this, periodic evaluations must be carried out,” said the IATA.
What happens when someone tests positive? If testing is mandated on arrival and a passenger tests positive, then the passenger should be treated according to the requirements of the receiving State.
“Airlines should not be required to repatriate the passenger(s) or ‘punished’ with financial penalties such as fines or through operational penalties such as the withdrawal of the right to operate in the market,” says IATA.
An important consideration is who should pay? Testing should facilitate travel and not provide an economic barrier. With testing at some European destinations costing in excess of $200, this is a real concern.
“The IATA supports the World Health Organization (WHO) International Health Regulations which requires governments to bear the costs of mandatory health testing. Where a test is offered on a voluntary basis, it should be charged at cost price,” said the association.
MMGY Brings Together Expedia, ADARA And Sojern For National Co-Op Supporting Travel Industry’s COVID-19 Recovery
KANSAS CITY, MO - MMGY Global's flagship integrated marketing agency, MMGY, has brought together Expedia Group™ Media Solutions, Sojern and ADARA to create a unifying campaign that maintains a consumer presence for the travel industry, shares a message of positivity and reminds American travelers of the real power of travel. The digital campaign, entitled Where Can Travel Take You, will run in June and July this summer and is meant to inspire people to travel again.
The latest findings from the Travel Intentions Pulse Survey, conducted by MMGY Travel Intelligence, reveal that just 39% of U.S. travelers intend to take a domestic leisure trip in the next six months. Fifty-six percent of travelers say that following the pandemic they are more likely to book travel to U.S. destinations, and 42% expect to travel to destinations closer to home.
"With fewer people traveling this summer and fall and many choosing to stay closer to home, we needed to bring together the right partners to make this program successful for our destination partners," said Jessica Schultz, SVP of Media Strategy at MMGY. "This co-op campaign utilizes the very best data and targeting capabilities to find consumers in the right markets with a high affinity for travel and, more importantly, the intent to travel."
The consumer-centric campaign is delivered through targeted media where consumers are currently spending increased time, including connected TV, video and social platforms. All media drives consumers to a content-driven landing page experience on Expedia, www.traveltakesus.com, where they can start planning their next getaway. The participating destinations showcase the diversity of the country's landscapes, seeking to encourage American travelers to consider some of the incredible experiences that might be right down the road from them. These destinations include Bloomington, MN; Rhode Island; Charlotte, NC; South Dakota; The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel, FL; and Traverse City, MI.
"A campaign of this scale, in these challenging economic times, would not be feasible without our partners coming together in a unified effort," said Clayton Reid, CEO of MMGY Global. "I'm proud to see so many businesses and organizations in the travel and tourism industry stepping up to help one another."
It’s official: Big-ship cruising out of North American ports is on hold until the fall.
The main trade group for the cruise industry, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), on Friday announced that all its members operating oceangoing ships would extend their suspension of cruises in U.S. waters until Sept. 15.
The announcement means another wave of cancellations is on the way from lines such as Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Carnival Cruise Line. The three brands have canceled all sailings through the end of July but still have trips on the books for August and beyond.
Nearly every major cruise line in the world is a member of CLIA. Exceptions include Viking and several small-ship specialists such as UnCruise Adventures and Lindblad Expeditions.
CLIA cited “the ongoing situation within the U.S. related to COVID-19” in making the announcement.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a “no-sail” order for cruise ships in U.S. waters that is set to expire on July 24. But many industry watchers expect the agency to extend the order in the coming days.
“Although we had hoped that cruise activity could resume as soon as possible after that date, it is increasingly clear that more time will be needed to resolve barriers to resumption (of cruising) in the United States,” CLIA said.
CLIA said it was confident that future cruises will be healthy and safe, and will fully reflect the latest protective measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus. It suggested it was erring on the side of caution in pushing back the resumption of cruising in U.S. waters.
“The additional time will also allow us to consult with the CDC on measures that will be appropriate for the eventual resumption of cruise operations,” CLIA said.
The extended shutdown does not apply to small ships designed to carry fewer than 250 passengers and crew. Such vessels are exempt from the CDC’s no-sail order.
Some major lines already had canceled all sailings into the fall in advance of Friday’s announcement from CLIA. Just this past Tuesday, Norwegian Cruise Line and its sister brands, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises, canceled nearly all sailings into early October. The move came just a week after Cunard Line canceled sailings into November. Silversea, Seabourn, Holland America, Princess Cruises and Windstar Cruises also already had announced they wouldn’t resume sailings until the fall at the earliest.
Still, the two biggest cruise lines in the world — Royal Caribbean and Carnival — were among the lines that had yet to cancel all or some August sailings.
It is becoming increasingly clear that cruising out of U.S. ports may not return as quickly as cruising in some other parts of the world, most notably Europe. Many countries in Europe are far ahead of the U.S. in bringing down coronavirus case count numbers.
A few small cruise vessels in Europe — mostly river ships — already have begun to restart sailings on a localized basis with trips aimed at the local market. The first was German line Nicko Cruises, which resumed river cruises in Germany with a single ship earlier this month. The trips are aimed at local Germans who can reach the ship by car or train.
On Tuesday, Norwegian cruise and ferry company Hurtigruten restarted its famed ferry service along the coast of Norway, which often draws traditional cruisers as well as locals traveling between Norwegian towns.
Some small-ship cruising also is about to start up in French Polynesia.
There is a growing consensus in the cruise industry that river ships and small vessels that sail coastal routings will be able to resume semiregular operations this year far earlier than bigger ships that offer long-distance ocean trips.
In part, this is because small vessels offer a sort of small-group travel that is easier to manage in an era of social distancing than the mass tourism of big ships. The typical river ship in Europe, for instance, has fewer than 100 cabins. It essentially operates as a small boutique hotel — albeit one that happens to move from town to town. Touring always is in small groups or on an individual basis. Onboard spaces rarely are crowded.
(CNS): Despite record-breaking overnight visitor numbers in recent years that fueled a massive boom in tourism, Premier Alden McLaughlin has described stay-over tourism as a “massive failure” when it comes to creating jobs for local people. McLaughlin said that 70% of tourism workers are expatriates, and while he accepted there “was an ugly side to cruise tourism”, Cayman had not found a way for stay-over tourism to work for its people.
Responding to questions from CNS at Wednesday’s COVID-19 briefing on the recent paper by the National Conservation Council and the Department of Environment about the opportunity to green the post-COVID-19 economy, the premier criticized the paper’s position on tourism.
He said there were some observations and recommendations in the document that government should take a long hard look at. But he also derided the recommendations, saying he couldn’t find anything in it that spoke about how to feed the people, and that it was laudable but idealistic.
McLaughlin said the authors’ “definition of sustainable tourism” was different to his or that held by government. Sustainable tourism must include the ability of local people to earn a living from the tourism product, he added.
“Stay-over tourism has been a massive failure for Cayman in that regard. Seventy percent of the persons who are engaged in sustainable tourism in Cayman are expats,” the premier said.
“While I agree entirely that it puts much less strain on the infrastructure and ecology… than cruise tourism and there is definitely a very ugly side to cruise tourism, I am not sure that stay-over tourism in its current form is really the best thing that Cayman has ever seen,” he said. “We have not found a way for it to really work for the vast majority of people that are employed in that industry.”
McLaughlin spoke about a need for a long critical look at the tourism product. He said a lot of people in Cayman were making a lot of money in stay-over tourism but he did not think many of them were Caymanian.
He also suggested, when asked, that it was not just about government policy or work permits, and that refusing permits would just prevent businesses from being able to operate. He said that for many years, for one reason or another, Caymanians had gradually become a much smaller percentage of those engaged in stay-over tourism.
However, he acknowledged that over the years billions of dollars has been invested in tourism. “We have just got to find a way, I believe, to make it work for our people,” he added.
Referring to hotels and condos, he pointed out that Caymanians were not the owners and that the wages paid to those working in overnight tourism were so low that most Caymanians won’t do those jobs. He said there was a complex set of factors operating that he thought about all the time.
But the premier said that COVID-19 had provided the opportunity to pause and think again about Cayman’s economy, noting that under normal circumstances it would be difficult to make changes that could threaten people’s income.
“Now we have got thousands of people unemployed, hotels are shut down, condominiums are shut down, and we are shuttling hundreds of expat workers back home,” he added.
McLaughlin said he had recently asked a leading operator in the tourism sector how do we get local people to work in the industry, saying that was the big challenge and the big question. But he said it was not a simple case of just giving the jobs to Caymanians as they had to be able to do the work or want to do the work in the first place.
Aruba will be opening its borders for passengers from Bonaire and Curaçao per Monday, June 15, followed by Europe, Canada and the Caribbean on July 1. Visitors from the United States (US) will be allowed as of July 10.
Aruba Prime Minister Evelyn Wever-Croes announced this during a press conference on Wednesday evening. In the first phase, starting on Monday, a “bubble” will be created for Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire whereby free movement of passengers will be allowed.
Visitors and returning residents from European countries are welcome per July 1, as well as passengers from Canada and the Caribbean, with the exception of the Dominican Republic and Haiti where, the prime minister said, the number of COVID-19 infections was still high.
The border will be open for passengers from the US as of July 10. Despite the higher risks of importing the coronavirus from the US, Aruba has still decided to take that “calculated risk,” as Minister of Tourism Dangui Oduber put it, because the country’s economy greatly depends on visitors from the US.
Wever-Croes said that no date has been set as yet for the opening of the borders with South and Central America, and the rest of the world. “We will keep monitoring the situation.” She said the decision to reopen Aruba’s borders in phases had not been easy to make and had only been done following extensive meetings and gathering advice from local, Dutch and international experts.
All arriving passengers, except for the ones from Curaçao and Bonaire, must comply with a number of conditions, assured Minister Dangui Oduber. A screening is mandatory. Passengers should do a test 72 hours before their departure to Aruba, and upload the test result on a special online facility.
Passengers must also fill in a health declaration form before departure. If the test results are negative, the visitor can freely enjoy their vacation. Of course, they have to stick to the preventive measures such as the 1.5-metre social distancing and proper hand hygiene.
Passengers who did not do the pre-departure test, will have to take a test at the Aruba airport. These visitors will then have to go 24 hours in quarantine at their hotel, and they will only be cleared after the test is negative, explained Head of the Aruba Tourist Authority (ATA) Ronella Tjin Asjoe-Croes.
Visitors who test negative after their arrival are in trouble: they will be isolated in a designated accommodation, and not in their hotel. Children under the age of 12 will not need testing because the chances of infection are very low scientifically.
Another condition for visitors is the special coronavirus insurance. This mandatory insurance policy – which has been developed with the Aruba insurance sector – serves to cover the cost of isolation, medical and hospital expenses and transport/repatriation in case a visitor has COVID-19. The coronavirus insurance must be bought prior to boarding, stated Oduber.
Minister Dangui Oduber said Aruba was well-prepared to receive visitors again. “We have expanded our healthcare system. We have more intensive care units and ventilators, more personnel and more testing capacity,” he said.
Director Tjin Asjoe-Croes said she expected about 2,000 tourists per week in July, which is about 20 per cent of the number of visitors for that month in 2019. Overall, for 2020, she said Aruba would receive 50 to 60 per cent of the tourist numbers compared to 2019, depending on the coronavirus-pandemic developments locally and internationally.
Prime Minister Evelyn Wever-Croes said the opening of the borders would evoke emotions of happiness, but also of concern and anxiety. “People will be happy because they can return to work, and there will be more income and economic activity. But feelings of concern and anxiety are also understandable. Naturally, people worry about the import of the virus, but it is important that we do not let fear be our guide.” She asked people to be positive, hopeful and courageous, and to inspire others to do the same.
Meanwhile, Bonaire Island Governor Edison Rijna informed the media that Bonaire would be opening its borders per Thursday, June 11, until June 30 as a test case with the entry of 108 persons from the Netherlands. These persons will have to go into mandatory quarantine.
As for passengers from Aruba and Curaçao, they will not have to go into quarantine upon entering Bonaire. The borders with Aruba and Curaçao will open today, Friday, June 12. Rijna did say that once Aruba opened its borders for visitors from the US, passengers from Aruba would no longer be allowed to enter without restrictions as Bonaire considers the US to be a high-risk area.
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.