by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): With the restart of cruise tourism at Port Zante just “berthing”, tourism may take another hit if the recent CDC Travel advisory for St. Kitts and Nevis is adhered to by tourists.
On Monday (September 13), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. State Department raised the travel alert level of St Kitts and Nevis due to the “risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 variants.”
In the Level 4 category, it is recommended that travellers do not travel to the country.
The CDC assesses the risk of COVID-19 based on a destination’s rate of new cases and new case trajectory. The Travel Health Notice level is raised if a significant increase in COVID-19 cases is reported or a destination’s case count meets or exceeds the threshold for a higher level for 14 straight days.
Level 4 destinations have more than 500 new cases per 100,000 people over the past 28 days or more than 500 cases period if their population is smaller than 100,000.
According to the COVID-19 Situation Report No. 532, as of Monday, September 13, the Federation has 642 active cases and has recorded a total of 1,510 cases in total.
For the last 28 days, the Federation has recorded 874 more than enough to make level four of the CDC’s Travel Health Notice.
What is the possible impact of this ruling by the CDC on the Federation’s tourism product?
“I do not think that we will be impacted by that. We continue to make St. Kitts and Nevis a safe destination. We continue to educate the population about making sure they sanitise, social distance, and all that to ensure that we remain safe. If you look at the list of the level four countries it’s almost the entire world is on level four. And so, we do not think that we will be impacted. What we must do is ensure that we vaccinate so that we can, in October as we have designated, we can open back. We have to get the numbers down. And so, we continue to vaccinate our people. We have brought in the Pfizer vaccination for those 12 – 17, and we now need to ensure that our people understand that the only way for us to get over this crisis is to vaccinate,” said Minister of Tourism, Hon. Lindsay Grant.
Under the level four heading, the other Caribbean islands include The Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, St. Lucia, Grenada, and now St. Kitts and Nevis.
In neighbouring Antigua and Barbuda, Health officials are worried about the country’s risk level rising from three to four.
The Minister of Tourism in Antigua and Barbuda, the Hon. Charles Fernandez informed the citizens of the most recent development and the possibility of reaching Level 4, and what that means for the tourism sector, specifically air travel.
“Unfortunately, with the increase of the local spread, I think it’s fair to say that you probably will see some concerns coming out of our source markets, i.e. the US and the UK mainly, putting Antigua in another threshold, [where they would] advise their people perhaps to reconsider coming to Antigua. So there are repercussions for this,” said Fernandez
Both ministers asked for people to accept the vaccine and continue adherence to COVID-19 protocols to avoid any adverse impact on the industry.
Travel advisories serve as strong suggestions for travellers, informing them of the need for personal safety. With the challenges placed on tourism sectors globally by COVID-19, the importance and relevance of travel advisories are changing.
Rachel Browne, CEO of the St. Kitts Tourism Authority, made similar remarks during the August 6 press conference hosted by the authority.
“The US remains our number one market; we see persons wanting to come to the destination. However, we’ve gone from 14 to nine to now four days for the quarantine. We only accept vaccinated travellers, but there are other destinations that are only requiring 24 hours, an RT PCR test, so it’s still very competitive in our set. We continue to keep the message as it is, that we are the traditional Caribbean. We’re a destination for you to come to relax and unwind, embrace our culture and heritage, and you don’t have to worry about somebody harassing you, in a safe environment, and we know that is resonating because the persons that actually come on the plane, they do speak to that they’re coming to a safe destination.
We’re seeing a strong [turnaround] in terms of the demand, but we also have to remember that there’s competition out there, and… it’s not about cost; it’s very interesting because we see in Miami persons are willing to pay for the same price $500 a night as they would for Park Hyatt or for Four Seasons. What it is is the testing if you are vaccinated. It is those requirements and the quarantine because persons want to go on vacation.”