Promoting the Caribbean as a safe tourism option for long-stay visitors during the coming winter season is an interesting initiative put forth by Kedrick Malone, former director of tourism for the British Virgin Islands and now president of a consulting firm in the BVI.
In a conversation with Malone on July 10, he outlined his "Covid-19-free" Caribbean winter destination idea and how the region could become a model for the coexistence of health and economy during Covid.
"Let's rethink this now," Malone said. "Many families in the colder flu zone states and countries are anticipating a second wave of Covid. Many parents are working from home as schools are likely to continue remote learning programs, but internet services and Zoom calls in many parts of the Caribbean are comparable to those in metropolitan [areas]. Spending extended periods in the Caribbean with its outdoor activities and offerings could be a viable option for families this winter."
He pointed out that Covid-19 "refugees" on extended stays would provide some recurring revenue to Caribbean governments and would direct revenues to local businesses. "The lost revenue of the last four months and the cost of stimulus packages have placed unsustainable financial stress on already struggling Caribbean economies," he said.
The concept echoes some other travel trends, particularly in the high-end market, with vacation-rental stays lengthening and other travelers sheltering in place at upscale villas.
Malone advocated Covid testing before departure from home and after arrival at the destination, a protocol that is currently required by many islands.
Staff training regarding safety and hygiene standards in restaurants and throughout resorts "will instill confidence in guests," Malone said. "Communications from the destination regarding entry requirements, and airport arrival procedures, and from the resort and hospitality providers regarding service and safety standards are key to implementing a safe tourism plan for visitors."
Countries are struggling to find the right balance between the need to protect the well being of their citizens and the need to open up their economies, Malone said.
"The Caribbean has to get the how and when right, and their challenge is intensified because some of their source markets have not curtailed the virus at home," he said.
Malone is convinced the region can open up their economies and at the same time keep their citizens, workers and guests safe in a managed risk environment.
"There is an opportunity for the Caribbean to implement a framework that will position the region as a Covid-free haven for the coming winter season. Life needs the Caribbean, and the Caribbean needs visitors, especially during Covid-19," he said