“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.
According to new consumer research from BVA BDRC and supported by Expedia Group search data, Americans are increasing their intent to travel this summer, a positive indicator for the industry. While U.S. domestic and regional travel searches steadily dropped throughout March and into the first week of April, according to Expedia Group data, search has been steadily climbing over the last month in total volume. Expedia Group data also showed that for domestic travelers who searched within the last month for July trips, there has been an average gain of 20% week-on-week.
According to BVA BDRC, nearly 40% of consumers polled plan to book an accommodation, whether a hotel or vacation rental, within the next three months. In addition, providing clear communication on cleanliness measures should be top of mind for accommodation providers.
Here are points for accommodation partners to consider:
Expedia Group search data shows a nine-point increase from mid-April to mid-May in the number of searches for two-star hotels, with three-, four- and five-star hotel searches down, indicating that lower price points are a factor in booking decisions. This value consciousness is further supported by BVA BDRC research showing a 57% increase from April to June in intent to use an OTA to book a trip, with 73% saying their reasoning is to get the best nightly rate. To meet traveler expectations on price, Expedia Group lodging partners should consider adding flexible rates and promotions to draw attention to their listings.
Travelers Take the Wheel
According to the BVA BDRC survey, more Americans are considering traveling by car this year for their next vacation, up 20% year-on-year. Traveler interest in motorhomes and campervans is also on the rise, while trains, ships and planes are down approximately 25% to 35% from last year. Only 15% of consumers polled plan to book a flight for a trip in the next month, with around one in 10 showing interest within the next one to three months. With drive-to destinations on the rise, lodging partners and vacation-rental property managers should consider marketing strategies to attract customers within a 250-mile radius.
More than half of the BVA BDRC survey respondents are interested in visiting friends and family in the near term, while 47% showed interest in destinations in the mountains or to a lake, likely due to the remoteness and potential ease to social distance responsibly. Sporting activities, both watching and participating, are the least likely trip type compared to their normal and past behavior, with 35% saying they are significantly less likely to plan a trip around one. To increase confidence among travelers planning trips to visit friends and families, Expedia Group partners are encouraged to add refundable rates plans that allow for cancellations or changes without fees.
David Jessop – Caribbean Council.
Even at the best of times, the cruise lines are controversial Caribbean partners, sharply dividing opinion between happy travellers, citizens, hoteliers, environmentalists, academics, and governments.
Now, having been absent from the region since early March when the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention issued its first ‘no sail’ order, many questions surround how and when they should return.
The Caribbean clearly wants to welcome cruise passengers back, but it has yet to be seen whether this will be on a common regionally agreed basis.
So far there has been little sign that the Caribbean has realised that the absence of sailings offers what is probably a once in a lifetime opportunity to reset in a more equitable way the relationship, and to capitalise on its e role as a prime cruise destination.
Although CARICOM heads agreed on May 5 to a joined-up approach to reopening, since then the signs are that this is unsustainable. The decisions taken by Antigua and St Lucia last month to announce unilaterally opening dates and health protocols for tourism suggests that the cruise companies will continue to be able to divide and rule and retain the uniquely beneficial tax and regulatory spaces they occupy.
As this column has pointed out before there is a need for a cruise industry that is genuinely Caribbean focused and developmental rather than existing solely to benefit the owners of the big cruise companies. To achieve this the cruise lines need to become wholeheartedly engaged partners.
Caribbean tourism is structured in such a way that hotels and other local tourism partners bear the brunt of the tax burden on tourism, contributing heavily to destination improvement initiatives and local social causes, helping to market their destinations, and helping to enhance and protect the environment.
While the cruise lines have been a good corporate partner in times of crisis, they too should be doing more to protect and enhance the environment, help develop the tourism product, support local businesses, and help grow the Caribbean’s post COVID-19 tax base.
Not only is there a strong case for significant adjustments to the low head taxes the cruise lines presently pay to government, but there is a need for a public debate on other concerns, for example relating to reef damage, ‘over tourism’, and the limited accountability offshore registered vessels have in the exclusive economic zones in which they sail.
More positively there ought to be a much greater regional focus on initiatives that might add tangible value such as the incentivising home porting hubs in the region.
It is an idea that Barbados has been developing in recent years and now hopes to take much further.
During the pandemic it has been offering safe haven to the many idle cruise ships now moored in its waters, going out of its way to demonstrate that it is a ‘trustworthy partner’ by continuing to honour pre-existing provisioning and other obligations, while helping facilitate humanitarian support and arrangements for the repatriation of large numbers of stranded crew.
What the island’s Minister of Tourism, Kerrie Symmonds has suggested is that its approach could offer significant commercial opportunity and employment benefits and the possibility of a southern Caribbean cruise alliance involving summer cruise itineraries on ships home porting in and sailing out of Barbados.
The indications are that the cruise lines hope to restart sailings to the Caribbean and other destinations early next year.
To offset passenger concerns they have announced new onboard health protocols. These variously involve appointing an on-board senior crew member specifically responsible for public health, enhanced sanitation, health screening for passengers and crewmembers, distancing procedures for embarkation and disembarkation, medical-grade air filters, removal of or staffing self-service buffets, and in some cases carrying diagnostic testing kits and even providing quarantine facilities in their medical centres
Others, however, have adopted a wait and see attitude and will review how best to adapt when the nature of government health requirements, passenger sentiment, bottom line impact, and port of call health procedures become clearer, along with knowing how long present restrictions will last.
Some Caribbean health professionals, however, doubt that such measures will be enough when some vessels now carry up to six thousand passengers plus crew. Their fear is that just one asymptomatic passenger among the large numbers disembarking for very short periods at busy Caribbean could reintroduce the COVID-19 virus in countries within the region and carry it on to subsequent ports of call.
They point to the case of the Seychelles where public health concerns have led its Government to announce that despite gradually opening the archipelago to arrivals by air from certain countries, it is banning all cruise ship calls until the start of 2022 out of concern about compromising Port Victoria, the country’s principle trade and tourism gateway.
That, however, is unlikely to be the Caribbean way because of the urgent need to restore government revenues, and competing positions on the timing of resuscitating tourism in order to drive national economic growth.
Before the pandemic, the Caribbean accounted for more than 35% of all cruise vacations globally with more ships sailing in or through Caribbean waters than in any other part of the world. There is no reason to doubt that revitalised, post COVID-19 cruising will fully return to region in 2022, albeit in an adapted form.
As the region begins to recover from the effects of the virus this should be the time when governments look to the future, jointly explore how the cruise lines can be encouraged to put much more back, and play a genuinely sustainable developmental role in return for the value they derive from the Caribbean and their use of the use of the region’s exclusive economic maritime zone.
David Jessop is a consultant to the Caribbean Council and can be contacted at
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.