Barbados sees an increase in flight bookings despite COVID-19
(FILE) Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Kerrie Symmonds.
Bookings to Barbados are gradually increasing according to Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Kerrie Symmonds.
Speaking during the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) webinar themed COVID-19: Resuming International Travel on Friday, Symmonds was expectant of more air traffic in the upcoming weeks.
The Minister said that from next weekend approximately two to three flights will be consecutively arriving at the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA). He indicated that the testing facilities at the airport will be "substantially challenged" by this influx of arrivals.
"[I expect the] Testing facility at the airport to be substantially challenged if we do not ensure that there are external areas where we can have testing being done," Symmonds remarked.
He went on to state that Government was cognisant that some travellers were coming to the island for a brief period and their plans could be snubbed due to the COVID protocols. He reiterated that authorities were paying keen attention to the country risk level of those arriving in Barbados.
"This is the challenge that is represented by COVID-19. . . . If we are going to go and spend a week or two somewhere you do not expect that week or two will be spent in quarantine and therefore if that was the proposition that we presented, we would be shooting ourselves in the foot from the very start because nobody is going to be doing that. So we have said if you come without a test, you are going to be tested here but you are going to be monitored and again we do this on a country by country assessment basis," Symmonds stressed.
Authorities will be paying more attention to arrivals from high-risk countries such as the United States. Meanwhile, low and medium risk countries such as CARICOM or Canada have been identified as not having a substantial degree of risk.
The Tourism Minister stressed that Government was working in the best interest of citizens to strike a balance where tourism and the interest of the public could be met. He lamented that it would take at more than a year for the island to return to life pre-COVID.
"For many of us, the return to business is going to take a little bit of time. We are not going to anywhere near where we were in Barbados prior to COVID for another year perhaps or more, and the fact of the matter is until we get a vaccine we're going to all have to manage this process very sensitively, carefully and selectively," he said.