The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) has called for a concerted effort by Caribbean government and private sector leaders to boost intra-regional travel, while fostering greater parity, clarity and consistency for travel.
The body argues more than US$1 billion was lost in 2021 following a drop in inter-regional travel.
While international travel to the region has rebounded to 75 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, intra-regional business and leisure travel has dropped to around 30 per cent, with smaller Caribbean economies and small businesses hit particularly hard, according to CHTA president Nicola Madden-Greig.
Stimulating intra-regional travel, asserted Madden-Greig, would bring higher local spending, boost trade in local goods and services, increase government revenues and revitalise local economies.
Among the steps proposed for revitalizing sluggish local economies were increasing services to revive regional air travel, reducing Covid-19 testing costs, cutting testing time, and shrinking long isolation periods.
CHTA also recommends an air travel tax/fee holiday or reduction, similar to that which was proposed to Caribbean leaders by Antigua & Barbuda’s prime minister Gaston Browne, who is leading by example with fee reductions for his country.
Additionally, more uniform and consistent regional travel protocols would reduce traveller uncertainty, while health safety diligence and increased vaccinations were key to speeding up the return of local festivals and events, key elements of intra-regional travel.
Regional travellers include Caribbean residents visiting family and friends; attending holiday events, weddings, funerals, reunions and homecomings; conducting business; selling goods and services; participating in training and meetings; and enjoying vacations, festivals, sports and other events.
Reiterating the importance of consistency, CHTA, which speaks for private sector tourism stakeholders, recommended eliminating travel barriers that add significantly to travellers’ cost and uncertainty, and putting into place low-risk protocols to stimulate travel.
Such protocols would include asking all travellers in the region to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 antigen test result 24 hours prior to departure when traveling from one Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country to another.
CHTA also recommended the elimination of on-arrival testing – and pre-departure testing (when returning home) – for fully vaccinated asymptomatic travellers within CARICOM jurisdictions, while non-vaccinated travellers would be required to comply with the standard protocols for international travellers.
CHTA president Madden-Greig also cited the broad impact intra-regional travellers have on local economies, spending at a high level on local goods and services and moving around the community more than travellers from outside the region.
“We know that the economic and social linkages are stronger, and the leakages are less as more of the revenue circulates within our countries and territories, benefiting a range of businesses beyond just the accommodations sector,” stated Madden-Greig.