Sandals Resorts yesterday described American Airlines’ move to introduce preflight testing for passengers travelling to Jamaica, The Bahamas and the rest of Caricom as a game-changer that can provide a major boost to help revive the region’s travel and tourism sector.
“This bold new move will significantly cut down the wait time for persons who require a negative COVID-19 test, and represents a huge leap forward in restoring travel to the region,” Sandals said in a news release.
American Airlines will launch initial testing at Miami International Airport for Jamaican residents travelling to their home country, and once this is successful it will be available to all passengers travelling to Jamaica, including US citizens, the resort chain stated.
The release reports Sandals Chairman Gordon “Butch” Stewart as commending American Airlines on its leadership and innovation at this critical time. He said that the pre-flight testing will address one of the major impediments to travel at the moment.
“We live in a changing world and as we take steps to protect people’s lives, we also need to find solutions that will protect their livelihoods. The long wait times for tests continue to be a disincentive to travel, therefore we are very excited that American Airlines will be introducing pre-flight testing, which offers hope for many countries dependent on travel and tourism. It is encouraging to see them being able to embrace science and technology in order to provide solutions in this new normal. We look forward to the successful implementation of this protocol not just for Jamaica but for the entire Caribbean,” the release quotes Stewart, who is also chairman of the Jamaica Observer.
Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States Audrey Marks, along with Minister of Tourism and Aviation for The Bahamas Dionisio D’Aguilar have also both hailed the move, which Ambassador Marks feels has significant implications not just for tourism, but, too, for other key sectors of the economy that have been negatively impacted by the ongoing pandemic.
Chairman of Caricom Dr Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, agrees.
“We are pleased that American Airlines has taken the lead to initiate this exciting COVID-19 pre-departure testing programme. The Caribbean Community welcomes this important progress to reopen markets with the health and safety of our citizens being of paramount importance, and we’ll be monitoring this programme very closely as it ramps up in our region,” Gonsalves said.
American Airlines President Robert Isom said the carrier remains committed to tackling the challenge and reimagining how it delivers a safe and healthy travel experience for its customers.
“Our plan for this initial phase of pre-flight testing reflects the ingenuity and care our team is putting into rebuilding confidence in air travel, and we view this as an important step in our work to accelerate an eventual recovery of demand,” the release quotes Isom.
Gary Sadler, senior vice-president of sales for Unique Vacations, the worldwide representative for Sandals and Beaches Resorts, said the move by American Airlines is a bold one in the current environment, and provides a great level of confidence for people wanting to travel, particularly from North America.