by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN) – Optimism with a serving of caution; that is the current state of the tourism industry in St. Kitts and Nevis, according to the Hon Lindsay Grant, Minister of Tourism, Transport and Ports.
“Globally, travel is on the rebound, albeit under different conditions, and slowly visitor confidence is returning,” said the Tourism Minister during a press conference on March 24.
That is the general view even with the recent performance of the tourism sector in the Federation.
As of February this year, 6,354 passengers have arrived in the Federation via air, a dramatic increase compared to the 860 passengers who came during the same period in 2021.
And according to Minister Grant, airlift into the Federation may increase with the recent lifting of restrictions in the United Kingdom and Canada, two of the destinations source markets that restricted the most during the pandemic.
Additionally, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, our primary source market, has lowered the travel advisory for St. Kitts and Nevis from a level four (no travel advised) to level three (travel if fully vaccinated).
On the cruise side, the trend is a positive one as the Minister shared that as of March 23, 68,285 cruise passengers came to our shores for the month with a week left to go.
Although there were 57 cancellations for the first quarter, January saw the most with 40 because of the spread of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus in the Federation.
Cruise lines will, for the summer, shift focus to Europe and Alaska. At the same time, other cruise lines still have insufficient vessels to accommodate market demand because they decreased their fleets during the height of the pandemic to lessen financial strain.
As transmission decreased and the threshold for positive cases onboard vessels increased from one percent to two percent, the cancellations lessened; ten in February and seven in March.
“More and more of our cruise line partners and our cruise visitors can disembark the vessels and explore the destination freely, thus creating opportunities for our stakeholders to maintain the livelihoods.”
In April, the end of the Federation’s peak winter season, 35 cruise calls are expected.
The future is still one of cautious optimism because of a new COVID-19 variant, BA.2, the latest subvariant of omicron that has quickly become the dominant strain in many countries, including India, Denmark and South Africa.
“Hence, as we draw close to the end of the peak winter season and enter the summer season, it is important that we manage our expectations and use this time to prepare for the 2022 winter season.”
He continued, “we do not anticipate cruise summer arrivals to be the same as during the peak winter season.”
However, the Minister assured that constant dialogue and efforts are being made with air and sea partners to keep the destination alive and well in the tourism marketplace.
Another decision that would affect the sector was made to the entry requirements for St. Kitts and Nevis effective April 1, during the meeting of Cabinet on Monday (March 21).
“Effective April 1, 2022, all fully vaccinated travellers entering St. Kitts and Nevis by air will have the option of presenting a negative COVID-19 antigen test 24 hours prior to arrival into the destination or a negative COVID-19 RT PCR tests 72 hours prior to arrival.”
Grant said that the Ministry is taking steps in the right direction to revitalise the tourism sector but continued to urge caution as COVID-19 is not over.