Gay Nagle Myers
Gay Nagle Myers

Racquel Brown, CEO of the St. Kitts Tourism Authority, has not spent this much time on the island since she moved there in 2014.

"I took my last business trip in late February, and I've been here ever since," she said.

Brown said she was enjoying her time at home, although, she added, "it has been such a hard time for so many people everywhere with the loss of lives and jobs, coupled with fear, uncertainty and separation from family and friends."

And, she said, "a pandemic is not a good way for tourism to move forward."

However, tourism on St. Kitts is beginning to move forward in incremental stages.

The government has begun to ease restrictions allowing for more economic activity and more exercise time on the beaches. The 15 cases of Covid-19 have successfully recovered. Limited curfews remain in effect. Kittitians must wear masks in public and practice social distancing, restaurants are open only for takeout and hand sanitizers are everywhere.

Tourists, meanwhile, are practically nowhere, as the borders remain closed. "The government  has not yet announced a reopening for U.S. travel, but we are gradually reopening society," Brown said.

When the all-clear is given, American is ready to offer flights from Miami, according to Brown.

The tourism authority is in the process of formulating a multipoint plan to ensure that travelers to St. Kitts feel safe coming there, are safe when there and remain safe when returning home.

"We are putting a lot of protocols in place and will spend this summer training those  involved in all facets of tourism, including hotel and villa staffs, vendors, taxi and tour bus operators, water sports operators, attraction owners and those who run businesses, shops and restaurants," she said.

Cruising, a big part of St. Kitts' economy, right now is a big concern with the no-sail order in effect to mid-July. Brown said that between March 14 through May 30, St. Kitts experienced 72 cruise cancellations.

"We began to see an impact in late February and March to the cruise sector," she said. "Cruising revenues make up a significant portion of our tourism industry with big passenger spend on-island, money collected in passenger fees, fuel charges and taxes. The scope of the economic impact becomes very clear," she said.

She said that St. Kitts' ability "to meet the established CDC guidelines will be our first step to the cruise sector resuming business here, as well as the guidelines from our Ministry of Health, which follows the protocols of the World Health Organization," she said.

And Brown is a big fan of cruising, especially with her family. "I love it, a chance for everyone to be together and to explore destinations we might never get to.

As St. Kitts moves further along the road to travel reopening, Brown is optimistic that by the end of the summer, the destination will have a better idea of how the winter season may shape up.

"The protocols that we will have in place will give our visitors confidence that we can assure their health and safety. There are still so many unknowns and right now it's wait and see, but the more we learn, the more it helps," she said.

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