Minister says despite COVID Tourism must resume but 'carefully'
While some have raised questions regarding Government's decision to recommence commercial flights, Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Kerrie Symmonds has indicated that the country had "little choice".
Symmonds defended the reopening during his address in the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) webinar themed COVID-19: Resuming International Travel on Friday.
He contended that the country was facing a burdening unemployment rate of 40 per cent and a significant decline in tourism revenue. The minister pointed out that the closure of the tourism sector impacted other industries such as agriculture, transportation, real estate and retail.
Symmonds suggested that Barbados had to come to terms with this new reality and develop efficient managing systems to handle it.
"The reality is we cannot bury our heads in the sand. We cannot wish it away. It is a matter that we fundamentally have no control or ability to manage the process and until such time that there is a vaccine available . . . . We are going to have to find a way to live while dealing with the COVID-19 reality," said the Minister of Tourism.
"We have little choice because there is not a lot else that is going for our economy at this stage which will allow us to make sure that we can maintain a satisfactory quality of living for our people," he continued.
Amidst concerns about the island's readiness for the resumption of tourist arrivals, Symmonds assured that officials have taken the appropriate health and safety measures.
He detailed that management committees have been established at every hotel to oversee COVID-19 safety protocol. Tourism and hotel employees have been educated on social distancing, the correct usage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitisation.
The Minister confirmed that Government was "not just letting the gates fly" during the reopening process but carefully allowing flights on a "market to market" basis.
With flights from the high-risk United States commencing, Symmonds said that authorities were welcoming flights from presently low-risk states such as New York but remain wary of those out ouf Florida and North Carolina due to an alarming number of COVID cases currently.
The Minister of Tourism went on to say that the Government will be managing the reopening process "very sensitively, carefully and selectively".
"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."