Bloomberg News April 25, 2021, 5:00 PM AST
Chinese vaccines could make it easier to enter, exit mainland
With the resumption of global travel on the horizon, some people are discovering that their choice of vaccine could determine where they’re allowed to go.
Already, the European Union is planning to allow Americans vaccinated with shots approved by their drug agency to enter over the summer, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen suggested in a New York Times interview Sunday.
This means that those who have shots by Chinese makers like Sinovac Biotech Ltd. and Sinopharm Group Co. Ltd. are likely to be barred from entry for the foreseeable future, with stark consequences for global business activity and the revival of international tourism.
As inoculation efforts ramp up around the world, a patchwork of approvals across countries and regions is laying the groundwork for a global vaccine bifurcation, where the shot you get could determine which countries you can enter and work in.
For Chinese citizens who venture abroad regularly, and western nationals wanting to pursue business opportunities in the world’s second-largest economy, a dilemma is emerging about which shot to opt for. China so far recognizes only Chinese-made shots, and its vaccines are not approved in the U.S. or Western Europe.
Hong Kong citizen Marie Cheung travels to mainland China regularly for her work with an electric vehicle company, a routine that’s been interrupted by lengthy mandated quarantine stays since the pandemic began.
Of the two vaccine options available in the city -- one from Sinovac and another developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE -- Cheung plans to sign up for Sinovac for easier movement in and out of the mainland. Meanwhile, her British husband will go for the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, she says to boost his chances of visiting family in the U.K.
“For people who need to work in or return to mainland, the Chinese vaccine is the only option for them,” Cheung said. “Westerners will only choose the vaccine recognized by their home country.”
For millions of people worldwide who can’t choose which vaccines they get, the risk of more places becoming selective about which shots they recognize, especially given the vaccines’ varying efficacy rates, creates the possibility that even fully inoculated, people’s travel could still be limited -- with consequences for international business activity and the tourism industry.
The EU plans to introduce vaccine passes as of June, which will allow travel for those inoculated or recently recovered from Covid and are thus considered immune. According to the draft of the regulation -- subject to ongoing negotiations between EU governments and the European Parliament -- all vaccines approved by the bloc’s drugs regulator will be acceptable for travel, though EU members are “encouraged” to accept vaccines that have secured World Health Organization approval for emergency use and recognize certificates issued by non-EU nations. The final decision on which vaccines will be accepted rests on individual member states.
“A global division of peoples based around vaccine adoption will only exacerbate and continue the economic and political effects of the pandemic,” said Nicholas Thomas, associate professor in health security at the City University of Hong Kong. “It will risk the world being divided into vaccine silos based on vaccine nationalism rather than medical necessity.”
Many countries have shut their borders amid the pandemic, some allowing entry only to citizens, and even then with weeks-long quarantines after arrival. While vaccines are seen as the way to remove those entry barriers, considerable uncertainty remains over how, or if, nations will differentiate the at least 11 shots available worldwide.
Governments from China to Europe are discussing vaccine passports -- easily accessible and verifiable certifications stating that an individual has been inoculated -- but it’s unclear if countries will pursue universal recognition of all shots, or be selective on which they choose to recognize, particularly with the rise of virus variants and questions over whether the current crop of vaccines are as effective against them.
China eased visa application requirements for foreigners who had been inoculated with Chinese shots in March, including the ability to skip Covid tests or fill out travel declaration forms. The country’s homegrown vaccines are only available in some countries, like Brazil, Pakistan and Serbia. You can’t get Sinovac or the other Chinese shots in the U.S.
But in a sign that Beijing may be cognizant of the economic costs of being selective on vaccines, the Chinese embassy in Washington said this week that travelers who had taken certain western shots could still enter the country if they were departing from Dallas in Texas. State media has indicated that the Pfizer-BioNTech shot is likely to be approved mid-year.
“We do think that it’s important to get a very high percentage of the community vaccinated and the best way to do that is to offer choice,” said Ker Gibbs, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. As a key market and source of business for companies around the world, China’s border restrictions -- among the world’s strictest -- have “had a major impact on our ability to conduct business,” he said.
A Vaccine Passport Is the New Golden Ticket as the World Reopens
“Just speaking with our members, mobility is a high priority for us both in terms of allowing our executives to come in and out of China, but also to have their dependents travel back to China,” Gibbs said. “That’s been a big problem.”
China isn’t the only place that’s restricting access to people with certain vaccinations. Iceland currently omits Chinese and Russian vaccines from the list of those it approves for entry.
The question of vaccine recognition is a key one for tourism-dependent countries, with the $9 trillion global travel industry effectively paralyzed since the pandemic began.
China’s approach to this issue may impact their decision-making, as Chinese tourists have been among the biggest groups of foreign visitors to travel hot spots in Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand and capitals as far away as Paris before the pandemic.
There were 155 million outbound tourists in 2019 spending more than $133 billion abroad, according to the China Tourism Academy, a government think tank and subsidiary of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. While Indonesia, home to Bali, and Thailand have approved and are administering Chinese shots, New Zealand and Australia -- which has seen its relations with China deteriorate the past year over the virus and trade -- do not.
“I don’t know how practical it will be for western countries to recognize Chinese vaccines given the geopolitical environment,” said Ether Yin, a partner at Trivium China, a Beijing-based consultancy. “But there won’t be a true resumption of global travel or economy without the inclusion of China, plus dozens of economies who used Chinese vaccines.”
Katy Niu, a 26-year old Chinese citizen, is a skiing enthusiast and frequent traveler living in Beijing. It’s unclear whether she’ll be returning to international slopes like those in Japan’s Hokkaido anytime soon. Prior to the pandemic, she used to travel internationally at least three times a year, from shopping on Paris’s Champs Elysées to relaxing on a Southeast Asian beach.
Niu hasn’t gotten a vaccine yet, saying she didn’t feel any urgency since she’s not currently able to travel -- and doesn’t see it opening up in the near future.
“If other countries don’t recognize the Chinese vaccine, does that mean vaccination is not going to make a difference?” she said. “We are not offered a western vaccine anyways -- we don’t have a choice.”
Bloomberg April 25th 2021
Ports from Juneau to Grand Cayman are considering parting ways—or saying mostly goodbye—to a sector that keeps their economy going.
On April 12, activists in Juneau, Alaska, filed paperwork to limit cruise traffic to the city’s picturesque port, where more than 1.2 million passengers disembarked in 2019. When cruising returns, it’s expected to host about 620 ships, bringing more than 1.3 million to the last frontier state.
The citizens argue that many passengers coming ashore during the summer season changes the way of life in the city of 32,000. Ideally, they say, they can maintain a quality of life, keep the city as an attractive destination for overnight visitors, and maintain some (but not all) cruise tourism opportunities.
Why now, after so many years of a booming cruise business? Locals say the pandemic shutdown has made them aware of exactly how beholden the city is to cruise lines, which pump about $1.3 billion in direct spending into the Alaska economy—and millions locally. Absence, in this case, has not made hearts grow fonder.
But Juneau isn’t alone. Destinations ranging from Bar Harbor, Maine to the Cayman Islands are using the pandemic to pivot away from mass cruise tourism, which, opponents say, clogs streets, stresses infrastructure, and threatens delicate coral ecosystems that provide natural buffers against hurricanes.
There’s also an economic argument: Overnight visitors spend considerably more than those on quick shore excursions, and reducing cruise crowds may help draw more land-based explorers.
In most places it’s a steep hill to climb. After years of back-and-forth decisions, the Italian government in late March greenlighted a ban on large ships sailing through the Venetian Lagoon. The concern there is over protecting the cultural heritage, given the increased risk of flooding around St. Mark’s Square whenever a cruise ship pulls into the harbor. To solve this problem, big vessels will be indefinitely rerouted to nearby Marghera, an industrial port on the mainland. But that change will take place only when the facility there is ready, leaving Venice preparing for yet another summer of big ships.
A Sector Slashed
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is suing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over what he says is an unfair shutdown of the cruise industry—a suit that last week was joined by the state of Alaska—but his constituents in Key West are moving in the opposite direction. In November they passed a cruise ship referendum capping the number of daily cruise ship passengers at 1,500 and giving docking priority to ships with the best health and safety records.
The new rules effectively will eliminate visits from major lines such as Carnival Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean International, whose ships generally exceed that passenger count. Pre-pandemic, almost a million cruise visitors would arrive at Key West every year, representing about one-third of the city’s tourists. That number is set to shrink dramatically.
One argument from cruise-limiting proponents is that cruise passengers spend an average of $72 per day in port whereas overnight visitors to Key West shell out $620 a day. The cruise industry—via the Cruise Lines International Association—argues that passengers spend more per hour of time they’re on shore.
Another issue is clean water. A Florida International University study of surface water clarity in Key West reported a small improvement while cruise ships have been shut down during the pandemic.
Key West’s cruise business has become a statewide flash point. On April 22, the Florida Senate approved a bill barring the local government from regulating port business. Local environmentalists and fishermen in Key West have asked DeSantis to veto the measure.
Although the outcome remains uncertain, Key West has set a model for other cities to follow. In Juneau, activists are collecting signatures to add cruise-related questions to the ballot for the Oct. 5 municipal election. The three proposed amendments would ban ships with more than 250 passengers daily between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. and all day on Saturdays, as well as banning ships that weigh more than 100,000 gross registered tons after 2025. As in Key West, this would ban most ships from major lines, while putting more pressure on overnight, land-based tourism to make up the difference in revenue.
The Others Following Suit
A similar story is playing out in sleepy Bar Harbor, Maine’s most popular cruise port. Pre-pandemic, the fishing town of 5,600 was expecting 300,000 passengers a year for the summer and fall season. Late last year, citing downtown congestion and its impact on local culture, the Town Council took steps toward setting limits by making plans to research local sentiment and discuss whether cruise limitations should appear on the June 2021 town meeting warrant.
As part of that work, Bar Harbor residents, property owners, and nonresident business owners are now being asked to complete a 24-question survey by Monday, April 26. Its goal is to assess the perceived impact of cruise ships and land-based tourism.
The Cayman Islands, which has a ban on cruise traffic until at least 2022, is also reconsidering its long-term strategy. In surprise comments in February, amid an election campaign, then-Premier Alden McLaughlin pulled back support for a new $200 million cruise dock in George Town. Instead he discussed limits on cruise ships when they return and suggested that medical tourism might be a way to fill any gap.
As a hub for international banking, the Cayman Islands is not as dependent on cruise tourism as some of its neighbors. Still, it ranks as the Caribbean’s fourth most-visited cruise destination, and before the pandemic it was expecting 1.9 million cruise visitors in 2020. Now that industry’s fate will lie with the newly elected premier, Wayne Panton, the country’s former environment minister.
Two Sides of the Coin
Not all caps are voluntary, though. The tiny gold-rush town of Skagway, Alaska (population: 850), would like to boost cruising—it’s the main income generator for locals—but it doesn't have the infrastructure, or the means to fund such improvements.
Last year no cruise ships visited Skagway. This year a ban on cruises in Canada until February 2022, coupled with U.S. cabotage laws (which deal with trade or transport in coastal waters), appears to have scuttled the season for a second time. In total the city’s businesses lost $160 million in revenue in 2020, says Mayor Andrew Cremata.
“Our waste treatment facility is maxed out, and it can’t handle any more. And the cost to build a new facility is $15 million to $30 million,” he says. “People say they want more cruise passengers, but a daily cap limit is sometimes dictated by things out of our control.”
Even in an ideal world where ships could come more frequently, Cremata isn’t concerned about anti-cruise activism bubbling up in his town.
“We love the cruise industry, and we’re good at it,” Cremata says, adding that his residents don’t mind the noise that comes with swells of visitors. “In winter we enjoy the quiet. In summer we enjoy the chaos.”
By Tom Linder West Hawaii Today firstname.lastname@example.org | Thursday, April 22, 2021, 12:05 a.m.
Help wanted. Now hiring. Job fair.
Job advertisements aren’t hard to find on the Big Island. Tougher to find, as businesses are discovering with the rebound of tourism, are workers to fill the plethora of available positions.
Despite Hawaii’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate hovering at 9% in March, employers are struggling to bring on new hires.
“It’s a major problem,” said Eric von Platen Luder, owner of multiple restaurants including Huggo’s, Lava Lava Beach Club and Kai, which is set to open next month. “We’re experiencing it with all of our locations… Right now, we’re getting maybe half a dozen applications a week, if we’re lucky. Before, we would put an ad in Facebook and Craigslist, and we would get 10, 15 applicants within a day or two.”
“It’s been unbelievable,” added Poi Dog Deli’s owner Taylor Cline. “I’ve never seen a hiring drought like this before.”
Early on during the pandemic, Gov. David Ige waived the work search requirements to qualify for unemployment benefits. In April 2020, less than 5,000 visitors arrived in the Aloha State and the unemployment rate soared to over 21%. As many as 53,113 initial unemployment claims were made in a single week, and it was under these conditions — when few places remained open and even less were hiring new workers — when waiving that requirement made sense. A year later, business owners are now calling for work search requirements to be reinstated.
“Business is here,” said Patrick Almarza, general manager of Sansei Seafood, Steak & Sushi Bar at Queens’ MarketPlace Waikoloa Beach Resort’s job fair on Wednesday.
Visitor counts, while not at pre-pandemic levels, have still rebounded significantly. According to the state’s Safe Travels statistics, more than 500,000 visitors arrived statewide in March 2021; nearly 85,000 of those visitors landed at Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole.
Almarza was just one of the many employers at Coronation Pavilion in Queens’ MarketPlace including Crocs, Ippy’s Hawaiian BBQ, Island Gourmet Markets, Kuleana Rum Shack, Hilton and more looking for employees; three hours into the job fair, no employer had conducted a single interview. Even if a company secures an interview, employers have reported applicants turning down jobs, claiming they get more money from unemployment.
While the employers in Waikoloa hope applications will pick up at day two of the job fair — going from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Queens’ MarketPlace — the sentiment was widely shared that the work search requirement needs to return.
As businesses remain short-staffed for longer and longer, employee burnout has become a growing concern. In an effort to avoid overworking staff, Cline has elected to close Poi Dog Deli on Sundays until more workers can be brought on.
“It’s more important to me to preserve my team than it is to be open one more day of the week,” said Cline. “We’re not in danger of going out of business anymore. … We need reinforcements. We need some relief.”
Relief may soon be on the horizon. In an April 16 Spotlight Hawaii interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Hawaii’s director of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) Anne Perreira-Eustaquio indicated the work search requirement will be a topic of discussion with Ige.
“It’s something that we’re going to sit down with the governor shortly: discuss what the environment looks like right now, what the workforce looks like, if there are jobs out there to apply for,” said Perreira-Eustaquio.
While the move wouldn’t be a silver-bullet solution — concerns remain about how effective DLIR’s enforcement of the work search requirement could be, and many parents will still have to remain home to care for children not yet returned to school fulltime — the tourism industry on the Orchid Isle has made clear it should be the next step in the return to normalcy.
“The tourists are back,” said Cline. “It’s time for everybody to get back to work.”
IMF Executive Board Concludes 2021 Article IV Consultation Discussions with the Kingdom of the Netherlands—Aruba
April 21, 2021
Washington, DC: On April 16, 2021, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the Article IV consultation discussions  with the Kingdom of the Netherlands—Aruba.
COVID-19 has caused unprecedented disruption to economic activity, triggering Aruba’s deepest recession in history, but the policy response was swift. Tourism came to a complete halt during the 2020Q2 causing ripple effects across the economy. Real GDP is estimated to have shrunk by 25.5 percent in 2020, with considerable strain to the labor market and business sector. The Central Bank of Aruba (CBA) eased monetary and macroprudential policies, supporting private credit despite the deep output contraction. The multi-pronged fiscal package has provided essential income and liquidity support to the affected businesses and households and has helped contain bankruptcies and unemployment. However, supportive expenditure policies and large revenue losses turned the fiscal balance from a small surplus in 2019 to a deficit of 17 percent of GDP in 2020. As a result of the large deficit and deep GDP contraction, public debt increased from 72 to 117 percent of GDP.
A moderate recovery is projected for 2021 amid exceptionally high risks. Real GDP growth in 2021 is expected at about 5 percent, supported by Aruba’s favorable testing capacity and vaccination prospects compared to other Caribbean countries. The pandemic is likely to have lasting effects on the economy, which is only expected to reach the pre-COVID level of real GDP in 2025. The fiscal deficit is expected to remain elevated in 2021, reflecting continued expenditure support and persisting weakness in tax revenues. Public debt will peak at about 130 percent of GDP in 2021 and gradually decline thereafter. The fiscal adjustment needed over the medium term to restore debt sustainability is sizable both by historical and international standards. Like other countries, downside risks are predominant and primarily stem from the uncertain evolution of the pandemic. Implementation risks to the needed fiscal adjustment and risks to debt sustainability are also high, but are partly mitigated by the sizable share of obligations to the Dutch government.
Executive Board Assessment 
The authorities’ swift policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic helped contain the human and economic damage. The multi-pronged fiscal package provided temporary income support, wage subsidies, liquidity assistance, and tax deferral measures. In addition, the Central Bank (CBA) eased monetary and macroprudential policies to support private credit and injected liquidity in the banking sector. These measures were instrumental in saving lives and preventing an even sharper downturn.
Policy support remains critical to contain the effect of the pandemic, given the tepid recovery projected in 2021. The decision to extend fiscal support in 2021 is appropriate, in view of continuing economic weakness and elevated risks. Premature retrenchment could hurt the recovery and pose even larger costs on the economy. The authorities are encouraged to prepare a contingency plan if current conditions persist, including the extension of some fiscal support into 2022 if additional financing sources can be identified.
Strict prioritization of spending and revenue mobilization is necessary as the recovery takes hold, in order to contain debt sustainability risks. Expenditure measures should be targeted to households and businesses in immediate need within a generalized effort to improve the efficiency of total spending. Measures to improve tax compliance would broaden the tax base while more fairly distributing the tax burden across the economy. The introduction of a value-added tax (VAT) should be accelerated to offset the revenue shortfall from the recent reduction in direct taxes while protecting the vulnerable, as well as on efficiency grounds.
Over the medium-term, Aruba will need a substantial and sustained fiscal consolidation to restore sustainability and rebuild fiscal buffers. A credible, growth-friendly and inclusive medium-term consolidation plan will be essential to set public debt on a firm downward trajectory. Key elements would include: (i) enhancing the tax system to raise revenues while minimizing distortions and protecting vulnerable groups; (ii) containing the public wage bill; and (iii) reforming the social safety net.
Strengthening the fiscal policy framework will help guide fiscal policy. Adopting a well-designed medium-term budget framework would strengthen fiscal planning and help achieve multi-year fiscal discipline. Enhancing the debt management strategy would guide financing decisions and mitigate refinancing risks arising from the bunching of maturity in 2022/23 when the loans received from the Netherlands come due under current terms.
Monetary and macroprudential polices should remain accommodative to support the recovery. The current level of foreign reserves is adequate, but should be increased over the medium term in view of the high uncertainty regarding the resumption of tourism receipts. The CBA is encouraged to remove the recently imposed capital flow management measure once economic conditions normalize. Premature tightening of macroprudential policies should be avoided to prevent adverse macro-financial feedback effects that might weaken the financial system and reduce welfare. As conditions for approval of the new exchange restrictions are not met, staff does not recommend their approval.
Banks are liquid and well-capitalized, though continued CBA vigilance for emerging financial vulnerabilities would be appropriate. Non-performing loans (NPLs) were contained at 5 percent at end-2020. However, provisions for deteriorating asset quality are affecting profits and NPLs could rise significantly once the fiscal support to households and businesses is lifted. Close monitoring is essential to ensure early intervention and maintain financial stability. Adoption of Basel II would further improve the financial sector's resilience.
Comprehensive structural reforms are key to diversifying the economy and boosting potential growth. COVID-19 brought to the fore the urgency of advancing diversification efforts to help contain tourism-related output volatility and catalyze growth. In the short-term, shifting to lower density tourism models would help reduce permanent scarring while decreasing negative environment externalities. Labor market reforms that foster flexibility would boost potential growth and improve external competitiveness. Strengthening the link between education, training, and skill demand and broadening access to digital infrastructure will reduce the long-term impact of COVID-19, particularly for unskilled, more vulnerable workers, helping alleviate inequalities and spur equitable growth. Policies that tackle inequality and strengthen resilience to climate risks should be continued, along with structural reforms that improve the business environment, including anti-corruption and AML/CFT measures.
Table 1. Aruba: Selected Economic Indicators
 Under Article IV of the IMF's Articles of Agreement, the IMF holds bilateral discussions with members, usually every year. A staff team visits the country, collects economic and financial information, and discusses with officials the country's economic developments and policies. On return to headquarters, the staff prepares a report, which forms the basis for discussion by the Executive Board.
 At the conclusion of the discussion, the Managing Director, as Chairman of the Board, summarizes the views of Executive Directors, and this summary is transmitted to the country's authorities. An explanation of any qualifiers used in summings up can be found here:
IMF Communications Department
For full IMF Report click below
Recently published visitor arrival figures indicate that Caribbean tourism has started down the long road to recovery. Following a disastrous 2020, during which governments closed borders to try to halt the spread of COVID-19 and months when the sector all but ceased operations, visitor numbers are now slowly increasing.
According to Tourism Analytics, the Aruba-based consultancy that publishes tourism arrivals figures on a rolling basis, stopover visitors to the island Caribbean, excluding Haiti, declined by 66.1 per cent from 23 million in 2019, to 7.8 million last year.
When it comes to this year, however, its website indicates that a gradual turnaround is now under way. When available stopover figures for the first three months of this year are compared to January, February, and March of 2020, the pre-lockdown period when tourism was still booming, its statistics indicate that visitor arrivals are slowly beginning to recover.
What Tourism Analytics figures evidence is that led by the Dominican Republic, the US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, the worst may now be past for some of the independent Caribbean’s largest tourism markets.
Speaking about this recently, Andrés Marranzini, the executive vice-president of the Dominican Republic’s National Hotel & Tourism Association, Asonahores, told local television that he expects this year to see four million visitor arrivals, the same as in 2019. As the proportion of those vaccinated in the country’s main source markets proceeds and vaccine roll-out accelerates locally, he said, the next 18 months “could see one single high season”.
Mr. Marranzini warned, however, that this would require the Canadian, the European Union and British governments to allow a resumption of travel to ‘safe’ destinations.
His optimism coincided with equally positive but more conservative comments by Héctor Valdez, the country’s respected central bank governor. He told an IMF meeting of Western Hemisphere central bankers that the favourable outlook for the country’s economic recovery in agriculture and manufacturing was “supported by the positive signs that are being observed in tourism”.
In his remarks, Governor Valdez observed that the country’s 5.5 per cent to 6.0 per cent forecast growth rate for this year was supported by the bank’s projections that the country would receive 3.5 million visitors and that its recovery would boost construction, manufacturing, and commerce.
In a similar vein, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, said last month that Jamaica is projecting long-stay and cruise-visitor arrivals this year at 1.6 million and related earnings at US$1.8 billion. Although the figure, which is predicated on a recovery in the United States market, is well short of the 4.3 million visitors and US$3.64 billion the country received in 2019, it would represent a significant turnaround.
The view that better times are ahead for tourism are shared by Adam Stewart, the Chairman and CEO of Sandals Resorts International, who says the company is already expecting a 65 per cent to 80 per cent occupancy rate in the coming months in its hotels across the region.
Mr Stewart said at a Mayberry Investors Forum this month: “I think for sure, the worst is behind us. Once the first vaccination was approved, we’re seeing a huge correlation between people being vaccinated and consumer confidence.” He suggested that from May onwards, aggressive vaccination programmes being undertaken in key markets such as the United States and United Kingdom and high levels of pent-up demand would drive tourists to the region.
Encouragingly, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) is forecasting a 20 per cent increase in arrivals this year over 2020, and a similar uplift in visitor expenditure, which it estimates to have fallen between 60 to 80 per cent in its member countries last year.
CTO cautions, however, that Caribbean performance in 2021 will depend largely on the success of the authorities in the region’s key markets and the Caribbean in controlling the virus. It believes that international travel confidence may not begin to pick up until this summer and may be modified by citizens in key markets being required to vaccinate before travelling abroad.
In contrast, the outlook remains bleak for the return at scale of cruise tourism, which remains subject to a ‘no sail’ order by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Speaking recently, Cuba’s Prime Minister, Manuel Marrero, said about tourism’s return that “people want to travel the same or more than before, but things will never be as they were. Now, the most successful destinations will be those that have known how to take advantage of this time of paralysis to innovate, to do things differently”.
Mr Marrero, a former minister of tourism, told the country’s tourism executives that future success will depend on their understanding that the sector is a locomotive for the economy and that they must significantly redesign tourism. This would involve, he said, ensuring COVID-safe conditions, offering service and cuisine of quality, providing universal internet connectivity, adapting marketing to be social-media oriented, and further diversifying the country’s tourism offering away from the beach.
“We are seen as a sun and beach destination, but the strength of our culture makes us different” as does the “varied nature” of the Cuban tourism product. We have to guarantee the highest quality in all tourism products that we offer in the country, both to the international and domestic markets,” he said.
What 2020 confirmed is that tourism, if well integrated economically and sustainably, is central to regional prosperity and growth. The first three months of this year have additionally begun to demonstrate how, if treated thoughtfully, land-based tourism has a greater capacity than any other economic sector in the region to support post pandemic recovery because it is able to deliver rapidly an externally led financial stimulus to the economy as a whole.
Measures that ensure the safe recovery of Caribbean tourism this year are therefore vital. However, just as important will be governments and the industry giving greater consideration to measures that will make the Caribbean product sustainable, diverse, more socially relevant, and globally competitive far beyond the sector’s predicted full return by the end of 2022.
David Jessop is a consultant to the Caribbean Council.
To access previous columns, visit: www.caribbean-council.org/research-analysis
Italy’s hotel owners are angry about Mario Draghi’s reluctance to reopen to tourists. But he’s right to hold off until the vulnerable are vaccinated.
By Rachel Sanderson: Bloomberg April 15, 2021, 1:30 AM AST
Italy is lagging behind its Mediterranean rivals Greece and Spain in the dash to save the summer tourist season. Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s stick-and-carrot approach to get Italians to vaccinate the old and fragile before he agrees to open up the country to sunseekers is morally right, but it’s a risky strategy economically.
Talk to Italy’s hoteliers and their consternation is palpable. Take Rocco Forte, the British hotelier, who’s due to open his newest luxury Italian residence, Villa Igiea, in a 19th century fortress overlooking Sicily’s Gulf of Palermo on June 3. It’s the kind of exotic destination locked-down citizens of northern climes fantasize about. Yet Forte tells me the well-heeled Americans who typically make up about half of his clientele are reluctant to book, as they don’t know when Italy will reopen and whether it will be safe.
It’s all very different in Greece, which has started pilot breaks for foreign visitors as a test for opening this summer. At least 69 Greek islands will be fully vaccinated by the end of April. In Spain, the tourist cities Madrid and Barcelona have remained open throughout the pandemic. Rome’s and Milan’s hotels have been in and out of lockdown for months.
Draghi wants to use every tool available to force Italy’s pace of inoculations, including using the summer season as leverage. He’s fully justified to prioritize this way, though it’s quite a gamble. The prospect of the country missing out on lucrative tourists is already fanning social and political tension.
Restaurant owners in Rome clashed with police last week outside parliament over the lockdown. Meanwhile, Italy’s regional governors are threatening to ignore Rome’s demand to vaccinate older and vulnerable citizens first, and instead follow the Greek model by favoring the inhabitants of holiday islands such as Sicily, Capri, Stromboli and Panarea (a summer destination for Italy’s business elite). The business lobby group Confindustria has cut its forecast for Italian growth this year to 4.1% from 4.8%, and two-thirds of that depends on the summer season going well, according to Confindustria boss Carlo Bonomi.
Yet Draghi has remained steadfast on inoculating the neediest first. In taking a hardline approach with the powerful hospitality industry, the former European Central Bank president has given an intriguing indication of how he plans to force through change more broadly in the moribund Italian economy.
Draghi’s prime concern is clear: Italy’s chaotic vaccination program has highlighted some of the worst weaknesses of the “Bel Paese” (beautiful country). Bureaucrats bungled the roll out of shots to the elderly. And in some cases privileged groups have taken priority. I spoke to a 96-year old man in Friuli Venezia Giulia last month who’d still not been given a date for his shot, and a healthy 50-something director of a blue-chip company in Milan who’d just had theirs. For Italy to have any chance of reviving its economy post-pandemic, it must quash the bureaucracy and cronyism that strangles its economy. Where better to start than vaccinations?
The government is fully aware of tourism’s importance: In Italy, it accounts for 13% of GDP and nearly 15% of employment, according to the OECD. And while Italians can still holiday at home this summer, the economy needs the country open to higher-spending foreigners.
Ori Kafri, cofounder of the five-star JK Place hotel chain, tells me he has plenty of interest for his oceanside vacation spot in Capri from regular visitors who want to rebook postponed holidays. Yet even he is skeptical about the usefulness of prioritizing vaccines for tourist islands. “The whole country needs to be Covid free,” he says. “You need to look from the bigger perspective, the way foreign tourists do.”
A peculiarity of Italian tourism is that it’s the only European country with more than a million hotel rooms, and most establishments are run by small family businesses. Big chains account for only 5% of them. Draghi is betting the best family firms will have the flexibility to respond as soon as Italy reopens, even at short notice. It’s those kind of traits that have allowed decent businesses to thrive amid Rome’s chaotic politics for decades.
But there’s also a post-pandemic opportunity here. One of the stumbling blocks for Italy’s declining economy for the past 20 years has been the dominance of underperforming small family hotels. The country has long lacked the hospitality infrastructure that appeals to affluent U.S., northern European, Middle Eastern and Chinese tourists.
It pricks Italian pride that France draws 90 million foreign tourists a year and Spain about 83.5 million, while Italy pulls in about 60 million annually despite its natural, cultural and culinary riches. Revitalizing Italy’s tourism sector has long been considered a way to boost its hidebound economy, particularly in the poorer south.
Investors say the economic distress caused by Covid means the price is finally right for big groups to move into Italian tourism. Italo-French company Covivio, owned by billionaire Leonardo del Vecchio, in September finalized the 573 million-euro ($685 million) purchase of seven Italian hotels, including Rome’s Exedra. Luxury hotels Six Senses and Bulgari are preparing to open in Rome. Andrea Guerra, former boss of Luxottica, has joined LVMH SE to head up its five-star Belmond and Cheval Blanc hotels, a signal it plans to expand in Italy.
In the inevitable rewriting of Italian capitalism after the pandemic, building a tourism sector better suited to the tastes of today’s top-spending travelers would be a plus. Draghi’s immediate concern is the vaccine campaign, but if a pandemic shakeout leads to a more profitable holiday industry, he won’t complain.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that passenger traffic fell in February 2021, both compared to pre-COVID levels (February 2019) and compared to the immediate month prior (January 2021).
Because comparisons between 2021 and 2020 monthly results are distorted by the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, unless otherwise noted all comparisons are to February 2019, which followed a normal demand pattern.
Total demand for air travel in February 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was down 74.7% compared to February 2019. That was worse than the 72.2% decline recorded in January 2021 versus two years ago.
International passenger demand in February was 88.7% below February 2019, a further drop from the 85.7% year-to-year decline recorded in January and the worst growth outcome since July 2020. Performance in all regions worsened compared to January 2021.
Total domestic demand was down 51.0% versus pre-crisis (February 2019) levels. In January it was down 47.8% on the 2019 period. This largely was owing to weakness in China travel, driven by government requests that citizens stay at home during the Lunar New Year travel period.
“February showed no indication of a recovery in demand for international air travel. In fact, most indicators went in the wrong direction as travel restrictions tightened in the face of continuing concerns over new coronavirus variants. An important exception was the Australian domestic market. A relaxation of restrictions on domestic flying resulted in significantly more travel. This tells us that people have not lost their desire travel. They will fly, provided they can do so without facing quarantine measures,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.
RPK) % of industry RPKs in 2020 PLF % PT) Change in load factor vs. the same month in 2019 PLF Level) Load Factor Level
International Passenger Markets
Asia-Pacific airlines’ February traffic was down 95.2% compared to February 2019, little changed from the 94.8% decline registered for January 2021 compared to January 2019. The region continued to suffer from the steepest traffic declines for an eighth consecutive month. Capacity was down 87.5% and the load factor sank 50.0 percentage points to 31.1%, the lowest among regions.
European carriers recorded an 89.0% decline in traffic in February versus February 2019, substantially worse than the 83.4% decline in January compared to the same month in 2019. Capacity sank 80.5% and load factor fell by 36.0 percentage points to 46.4%.
Middle Eastern airlines saw demand fall 83.1% in February compared to February 2019, worsened from an 82.1% demand drop in January, versus the same month in 2019. Capacity fell 68.6%, and load factor declined 33.4 percentage points to 39.0%.
North American carriers’ February traffic sank 83.1% compared to the 2019 period, a deterioration from a 79.2% decline in January year to year. Capacity sagged 63.9%, and load factor dropped 41.9 percentage points to 36.7%.
Latin American airlines experienced an 83.5% demand drop in February, compared to the same month in 2019, markedly worse than the 78.5% decline in January 2019. February capacity was 75.4% down compared to February 2019 and load factor dropped 26.7 percentage points to 54.6%, highest among the regions for a fifth consecutive month.
African airlines’ traffic dropped 68.0% in February versus February two years ago, which was a setback compared to a 66.1% decline recorded in January compared to January 2019. February capacity contracted 54.6% versus February 2019, and load factor fell 20.5 percentage points to 49.1%.
Domestic Passenger Markets
RPK) % of industry RPKs in 2020 PLF % PT) Change in load factor vs. the same month in 2019 PLF Level) Load Factor Level
Australia’s domestic traffic was down 60.5% in February compared to February 2019, dramatically improved compared to the 77.3% decline in January over 2019. Some state border restrictions were eased in early February.
US domestic traffic declined 56.1% in February versus the same month in 2019, improved from the 58.4% decline in January compared to two years ago. The improvement was driven by falling rates of contagion and accelerating vaccinations.
The Bottom Line
“The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently stated that vaccinated individuals can travel safely. That is good news. We have also recently seen Oxera-Edge Health research highlighting the efficacy of fast, accurate and affordable rapid tests for COVID-19. These developments should reassure governments that there are ways to efficiently manage the risks of COVID-19 without relying on demand-killing quarantine measures and/or expensive and time-consuming PCR testing,” said Walsh.
“Two key components for an efficient restart of travel need to be urgently progressed. The first is the development of global standards for digital COVID-19 test and/or vaccination certificates. The second is government agreement to accept certificates digitally. Our experiences to date already demonstrate that paper-based systems are not a sustainable option. They are vulnerable to fraud. And, even with the limited amount of flying today, the check-in process needs pre-COVID-19 staffing levels just to handle the paperwork.
Paper processes will not be sustainable when travel ramps up. The IATA Travel Pass app was developed precisely in anticipation of this need to manage health credentials digitally. Its first full implementation trial is focused on Singapore, where the government has already announced that it will accept health certificates through the app. This will be an essential consideration for all governments when they are ready to relink their economies with the world through air travel,” said Walsh.
Lebawit Lily Girma, Skift
- Apr 09, 2021 9:00 am
It’s a backyard tourism boon for the often-overlooked U.S. territory in the Caribbean, where more Americans are flocking. USVI’s successful Covid-control could also lead to the first use of in-country vaccine certificates to revive carnival later this month — while tackling local vaccine resistance.
In an ordinary tourism year, the visitor revenue numbers that the U.S. Virgin Islands is experiencing would be great, particularly after a rebound from 2017 twin hurricanes. In the middle of a pandemic year, however, they are extraordinary — perhaps as extraordinary as the territory’s overlooked ability to keep Covid infections well below five percent.
In 2020, the USVI received 415,749 air arrivals or just a 35.1 percent reduction from 2019. By contrast, the rest of the Caribbean experienced 65.5 percent stayover decline.
Hotels are currently at over 90 percent occupancy, according to the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism, and average daily rates climbed 43.3. percent in 2020. February 2021 hotel tax revenues reached $1.85 million or only a 28 percent decline from $2.5 million in February 2020.
Being a U.S. territory and having a 1.5 percent Covid positivity rate has given the archipelago even more appeal among vaccinated American travelers seeking to escape the mainland in search of beaches and nature, while facing fewer restrictions upon return. A recent TripAdvisor Spring travel survey revealed that the U.S. Virgin Islands occupied three of the top 10 spots for the fastest growing destinations for Americans. They include St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix.
To boot, as of last month, vaccine tourism is on the rise — an unintended consequence of tourists discovering easy jab access in the first American jurisdiction to open vaccination to the general population.
USVI Tourism Commissioner Joseph Boschulte said it was “a mixed reaction” when news reports last month touted the ability to receive jabs in the Virgin Islands while on vacation.
“We are not marketing for vaccine tourism seekers — our objective is to reconnect with paradise, have fun while on vacation,” said Boschulte, adding that it wasn’t turning them away either as long as supplies were available for locals.
“We are like many African American or Caribbean American people that are a little hesitant to take the vaccine, so we don’t want to have a situation where, because our usage levels are lower than expected, that our allocations into the future get impacted.”
Vaccinated tourists ultimately provide an extra layer of protection for residents — and an extra boost to the tourism economy as a result of prolonged stays. Jabs aside, the archipelago’s U.S. flag advantage is boosting USVI’s tourism industry.
“We do believe the overnight success that we see now is going to extend into the summer and into the winter season, and into the foreseeable future,” said Boschulte, noting that a lot of the travelers the USVI was now receiving was a direct result of the pandemic. “It’s a U.S. territory — your cell phone, your health card, your ATMs work here so if you did happen to get sick and stuck, you feel better to get home.”
FLIGHT CAPACITY AHEAD OF 2019 LEVELS
As of April 2021, the USVI is averaging 27 flights a day into St. Thomas from the mainland, and six into St. Croix, originating from all corners of the U.S., including Boston, New York, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta and Florida.
A slew of increased airlift to the Virgin Islands is planned for the summer, including 20 percent more American Airlines seats to St. Croix.
“We are a little ahead of where we were [high season, pre-Covid] and that is a very big mark for us,” Boschulte said. What used to be an average of 28,000-29,000 seats a week into St Thomas is currently at 31,000 seats, while St. Croix has just over 9,000 plus seats a day compared to a previous 7,800-8,100.
“So both districts are ahead of where we were in the best of times pre-hurricane season, in terms of airlift into the territory, which is the driver of our economy right now because we have not had cruise ships.”
SKYROCKETING DEMAND SHAPE MARKETING PLANS
For the first time in years, the U.S. Virgin Islands ranks at the top in terms of Caribbean travel demand, from load factor to revenue per available room and occupancy.
Given the predicted blockbuster summer ahead for the US leisure traveler, USVI would take advantage of its foothold in tourism recovery to market aggressively for the 2021-2022 winter season. Boschulte said that the rest of the Caribbean region was likely to be more fully open than it is now by the winter season, signaling competition ahead for the USVI.
This has meant in-person marketing activities in Texas so far, and in the northeast in coming months, including the tri-state Washington D.C. area.
High demand is also reflected in short-term rentals. Boschulte noted that the sharing economy allowed USVI to rebound from the 2017 hurricanes as well as handle the pandemic’s tourism surge on the archipelago. To date, not all hotels have recovered from the twin hurricanes and some properties remain under renovation. “There’s no way we could sustain that type of demand if we didn’t have the sharing economy.”
In 2019, Airbnb room occupancy tax collections totaled $2,647,431 or a 94.9 percent gain from the prior year. USVI Department of Tourism said 2020 numbers were not yet available.
“It’s getting to the point where you can ask your price because people can’t rent without you,” Renee Petrillo said, owner of Rent Renee!, a virtual assistant service that moved into cleaning for short-term rentals. “The turnover has been really insane. I’ve gone to this because that’s where the money is.”
A subset of the sharing economy is yacht charters, as more companies such as The Moorings relocate to the USVI. According to the department of tourism, 2020-2021 marine revenue numbers are forecasted to show deep growth, amounting to annual direct and indirect contributions for all USVI-based charter yachts of an estimated $88 million, compared to $45 million in 2019.
VACCINE CERTIFICATES COULD BRING BACK EVENTS — AND BOOST UPTAKE
Just as Israel is requiring vaccine certificates for access to indoor restaurants and activities, the USVI is considering adopting a similar approach for its live entertainment events. It could become the first destination in the Caribbean region to require vaccine certificates to help restart events and festivals, which are a critical part of the cultural fabric and a USVI tourism revenue boost.
“I do believe that is a very likely possibility if only to use as a marketing tool to get more people to get vaccinated,” Boschulte said, noting the example of the upcoming USVI’s carnival in St. Thomas, at the end of April.
Although scheduled as a one-day virtual event this year, Boschulte said that USVI is also contemplating a vaccinated in-person masked Carnival fete for 150 people per capacity rules. And you only can come in if you’re verified to be vaccinated, so you can’t even buy a ticket to come if you’re not vaccinated.”
This would allow some return of live entertainment in the USVI and the Caribbean region. It would also give an incentive to the younger crowds to vaccinate.
“What we’re trying to do is get them to say, hey, you’re telling me that I may be able to hang out in May and June if I get vaccinated?” Boschulte said. “We know that we have segments of our young local population – 30 and below — that are not signed up to get vaccinated.”
Signs of vaccine certificate requirements have also popped up in sports events. “The USVI soccer federation recently held a match [on March 27, 2021] and they were allowing 200 spectators but every spectator had to produce a vaccine card,” Rob DeRocker said, a marketing consultant and homeowner on St. Croix.
A FUTURE REDUCED DEPENDENCE ON TOURISM
Last month, the Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority unveiled the territory’s new future economic strategy or Vision 2040 Plan. One of its most startling features is that despite the visitor industry contributing an estimated 60 percent to the USVI gross domestic tourism product, tourism is listed last among future goals that otherwise focus on agriculture, blue economy, healthcare and renewable energy, among others,
“One of the major tenets of that study was to find ways to become less dependent on tourism,” Boschulte said, noting that part of that government decision was the result of the pandemic delaying the restart of cruise tourism, which used to make up 1.4 million arrivals into St. Thomas, as well as the 2017 hurricanes.
“Our focus has pivoted heavily toward overnight guests and the marine traveler, away from cruise.”
The plan revealed that day trippers represented 80 percent of tourists to USVI with only 37 percent of expenditures, whereas longer-stay tourists accounted for 20 percent of visitors and 63 percent of revenue. As a result, the USVI plans to push for a more sustainable tourism model focusing on experiential tourism and long term travelers.
At a weekly press briefing on Tuesday, USVI Governor Albert Bryant, Jr. said its administration went back to look at the data on vaccinated people, and that less than six percent put down a non-local address. Bryant said that vaccine availability has not been affected and remained available to anyone above the age of 16.
“If you’re from Dominican Republic, if you’re from Haiti or wherever you’re from, you don’t have your papers — you don’t need them … you’re fully safe, no immigration concerns, we just want to make sure that everyone in our community is safe.”
Vaccine rollouts in some countries have a long-locked-down world dreaming of travels abroad again. But they have also set off a fraught debate about the fairness of a two-tier system for haves and have-nots.
By Mark Landler New York Times.
April 9, 2021
LONDON — For Aruba, a Caribbean idyll that has languished since the pandemic drove away its tourists, the concept of a “vaccine passport” is not just intriguing. It is a “lifeline,” said the prime minister, Evelyn Wever-Croes.
Aruba is already experimenting with a digital certificate that allows visitors from the United States who tested negative for the coronavirus to breeze through the airport and hit the beach without delay. Soon, it may be able to fast-track those who arrive with digital confirmation that they have been vaccinated.
“People don’t want to stand in line, especially with social distancing,” Ms. Wever-Croes said in an interview this week. “We need to be ready in order to make it hassle-free and seamless for the travelers.”
Vaccine passports are increasingly viewed as the key to unlocking the world after a year of pandemic-induced lockdowns — a few bytes of personal health data, encoded on a chip, that could put an end to suffocating restrictions and restore the freewheeling travel that is a hallmark of the age of globalization. From Britain to Israel, these passports are taking shape or already in use.
But they are also stirring complicated political and ethical debates about discrimination, inequality, privacy and fraud. And at a practical level, making them work seamlessly around the globe will be a formidable technical challenge.
The debate may play out differently in tourism- or trade-dependent outposts like Aruba and Singapore, which view passports primarily as a tool to reopen borders, than it will in vast economies like the United States or China, which have starkly divergent views on civil liberties and privacy.
The Biden administration said this week that it would not push for a mandatory vaccination credential or a federal vaccine database, attesting to the sensitive political and legal issues involved. In the European Union and Britain, which have taken tentative steps toward vaccine passports, leaders are running into thorny questions over their legality and technical feasibility.
And in Japan, which has lagged the United States and Britain in vaccinating its population, the debate has scarcely begun. There are grave misgivings there about whether passports would discriminate against people who cannot get a shot for medical reasons or choose not to be vaccinated.
Japan, like other Asian countries, has curbed the virus mainly through strict border controls.
“Whether or not to get vaccinated is up to the individual,” said Japan’s health minister, Norihisa Tamura. “The government should respond so that people won’t be disadvantaged by their decision.”
Still, almost everywhere, the pressure to restart international travel is forcing the debate. With tens of millions of people vaccinated, and governments desperate to reopen their economies, businesses and individuals are pushing to regain more freedom of movement. Verifying whether someone is inoculated is the simplest way to do that.
“There’s a very important distinction between international travel and domestic uses,” said Paul Meyer, the founder of the Commons Project, a nonprofit trust that is developing CommonPass, a scannable code that contains Covid testing and vaccination data for travelers. Aruba was the first government to sign up for it.
“There doesn’t seem to be any pushback on showing certification if I want to travel to Greece or Cyprus,” he said, pointing out that schools require students to be vaccinated against measles and many countries demand proof of yellow fever vaccinations. “From a public health perspective, it’s not fair to say, ‘You have no right to check whether I’m going to infect you.’”
CommonPass is one of multiple efforts by technology companies and others to develop reliable, efficient systems to verify the medical status of passengers — a challenge that will deepen as more people resume traveling.
At Heathrow Airport in London, which is operating at a fraction of its normal capacity, arriving passengers have had to line up for hours while immigration officials check whether they have proof of a negative test result and have purchased a mandatory kit to test themselves twice more after they enter the country.
Saudi Arabia announced this week that pilgrims visiting the mosques in Mecca and Medina during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan would have to show proof on a mobile app of being “immunized,” which officials defined as having been fully vaccinated, having gotten a single dose of a vaccine at least 14 days before arrival, or having recovered from Covid.
In neighboring United Arab Emirates, residents can show their vaccination status on a certificate through a government-developed app. So far, the certificate is not yet widely required for anything beyond entering the capital, Abu Dhabi, from abroad.
Few countries have gone farther in experimenting with vaccine passports than Israel. It is issuing a “Green Pass” that allows people who are fully vaccinated to go to bars, restaurants, concerts and sporting events. Israel has vaccinated more than half its population and the vast majority of its older people, which makes such a system useful but raises a different set of questions.
With people under 16 not yet eligible for the vaccine, the system could create a generational divide, depriving young people of access to many of the pleasures of their elders. So far, enforcement of the Green Pass has been patchy, and in any event, Israel has kept its borders closed.
So has China, which remains one of the most sealed-off countries in the world. In early March, the Chinese government announced it would begin issuing an “international travel health certificate,” which would record a user’s vaccination status, as well as the results of antibody tests. But it did not say whether the certificate would spare the user from China’s draconian quarantines.
Nor is it clear how eager other countries would be to recognize China’s certificate, given that Chinese companies have been slow in disclosing data from clinical trials of their homegrown vaccines.
Singapore has also maintained strict quarantines, even as it searches for way to restart foreign travel. Last week, it said it would begin rolling out a digital health passport, allowing passengers to use a mobile app to share their coronavirus test results before flying into the island nation.
Like China, Singapore has not said whether that would be enough to avoid quarantine. The heavy focus on international travel points up another inconsistency in the use of passports: between those who can afford to travel freely overseas and those who continue to live under onerous restrictions at home.
Free movement across borders is the goal of the European Union’s “Digital Green Certificate.” The European Commission last month set out a plan for verifying vaccination status, which would allow a person to travel freely within the bloc. It left it up to its 27 member states to decide how to collect the health data.
That could avoid the pitfalls of the European Union’s vaccine rollout, which was heavily managed by Brussels and has been far slower than that in the United States or Britain. Yet analysts noted that in data collection, there is a trade-off between decentralized and centralized systems: the former tends to be better at protecting privacy but less efficient; the latter, more intrusive but potentially more effective.
“Given the very unequal access to vaccines we are witnessing in continental Europe, there is also an issue of equal opportunity and potential discrimination,” said Andrea Renda, a senior research fellow at the Center for European Policy Studies in Brussels.
For some countries, the legal and ethical implications have been a major stumbling block to domestic use of a passport. As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada put it last month, “There are questions of fairness and justice.”
And yet in Britain, which has a deeply rooted aversion to national ID cards, the government is moving gingerly in that direction. Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week outlined broad guidelines for a Covid certificate, which would record vaccination status, test results, and whether the holder had recovered from Covid, which confers a degree of natural immunity for an unknown duration.
Mr. Johnson insisted that shops, pubs and restaurants would not be required to demand the certificate, though they could opt to do so on their own. That did not stop dozens of lawmakers, from his Conservative Party and the opposition Labour Party, from opposing the plan on grounds that were legal, ethical and plainly commercial — that it could keep people out of the country’s beloved pubs.
Government officials now suggest that the plan is targeted less at pubs and restaurants and more at higher-risk settings, like nightclubs and sporting events.
“Would we rather have a system where no one can go to a sports ground or theater?” said Jonathan Sumption, a former justice on Britain’s Supreme Court, who has been an outspoken critic of the government’s strict lockdowns. “It’s better to have a vaccine passport than a blanket rule which excludes these pleasures from everybody.”
The United States Government’s Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration’s National Travel and Tourism Office (NTTO) recently released the figures for U.S. citizens outbound travel from the USA to International Regions for calendar year 2020.
In March of 2020, the US Federal Government began to strongly discourage its residents from traveling overseas in an effort to slow down the rate of infections spread by returning residents (and from non-resident travelers visiting from overseas) while, at the same time, many countries outside the USA closed their borders to incoming tourists. These restrictions began to be slowly relaxed commencing in late June 2020.
The numbers for air traffic both to and from all international regions (on US and foreign flagged carriers) are reported to the NTTO by means of the “U.S. International Air Travel Statistics Report”. For more details of this survey go to https://www.trade.gov/us-international-air-travel-statistics-i-92-data
As can be seen: -
Included in Caribbean for APIS:
British Virgin Islands.
Grand Cayman (Cayman Islands)
Netherlands Antilles (including Bonaire, Curacao and Sint Maarten)
Travel by US Residents to the Caribbean by Month 2020.
Total Travel by US Residents Overseas by Month 2020.
Caribbean share of US Residents' International Travel 2020
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.