The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) has pointed to an increase in visitors to Barbados since the lifting of COVID-19 travel restrictions last month as an example of the importance of getting travel back to normal.
CHTA president Nicola Madden-Greig disclosed on Tuesday that according to statistics compiled from September 1, arrivals to Barbados moved from -10 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels to -8 per cent before seeing positive growth of eight per cent.
“[This is] showing you that we definitely understand and appreciate why restrictions had to be lifted,” she told a press conference at the CHTA’s 40th Caribbean Travel Marketplace being held at the Puerto Rico Convention Centre in San Juan.
“It was not an issue because of the level of protocols put in place, the safety measures on the ground, working with CARPHA [the Caribbean Public Health Agency] and other agencies to ensure that those visitors that came, even though we removed the travel restrictions, were not at any risk and had a wonderful vacation experience.”
While there had been a gradual easing of COVID-19-related travel protocols in Barbados, all remaining restrictions were discontinued as of September 23, which means travelling to the island is as it was before the pandemic curtailed travel in early 2020. Mask wearing also became optional except in healthcare institutions, schools, penal institutions, and public transportation.
The CHTA boss said while travel restrictions and protocols and health and safety measures allowed the Caribbean to welcome visitors back to the region safely, it was important to see them lifted to encourage further growth of the vital tourism sector.
She disclosed on Tuesday that while there was concern among potential travellers that they might be left stranded if they contracted COVID-19 in the countries they visited, given the testing protocols, the number of people who were positive for the virus on taking the required COVID-19 test for departure was actually “excessively low” – 0.1 per cent of travellers, according to a CHTA statistical analysis.
“That was due to the hard work and effort of every single hotel, attraction, restaurant, bar, airport, so that those visitors, even though COVID was still circulating, [were] able to come, enjoy their stay, leave the island and get back home COVID-free,” Madden-Greig said.
During her presentation to the media, the CHTA president highlighted the performance of the region’s tourism recovery, noting that the Caribbean was spearheading the world’s travel recovery.
After a 2022 third-quarter increase of three per cent compared to 2019 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, there was a 15 per cent increase up to September 14, which Madden-Greig said put the Caribbean’s travel recovery ahead of all other regions.
“We hear that maybe the Caribbean has only recovered because we have borrowed visitors, but we can see that even with Q3 [third quarter] and Q4 [fourth quarter] where the other destinations are also recovering . . . the Caribbean is still increasing. Now, if we follow that sentiment then we should be decreasing, we should be going in the opposite direction because we have got these borrowed visitors from all these other destinations.
“So that is saying that the Caribbean, in particular, is still very hot and still in demand and we have managed to not only attract new visitors, but sustain that growth . . . even when the rest of the world is also recovering and getting back their numbers.
“So there’s no fluke. The Caribbean is doing very well,” Madden-Greig insisted.
Arrivals from the Americas, particularly the United States, continue to drive that performance.