[Many thanks to Michael O’Neal (Slavery, Smallholding and Tourism) for bringing this item to our attention.] Dave Lawler (AXIOS) writes about how tourist hotspots around the world face a daunting challenge: how to bring in much-needed visitors while keeping COVID-19 out. Here are excerpts pertaining to the Caribbean: Aruba, Antigua and Barbuda, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and others.
Why it matters: As the summer season heats up in the Northern Hemisphere, that’s a multitrillion-dollar question.
Paradise and the pandemic
Few places on Earth are more dependent on international arrivals than Aruba, where tourism accounted for 86% of GDP in 2018.
- Live videos showed sunny if blustery weather on beaches there this afternoon, but they were entirely devoid of people.
- Aruba has been closed to foreigners since March 16, and a shelter-in-place order is in effect, along with a curfew. There are currently just five active cases of COVID-19, with no new infections recorded for over a week.
- That will be hard to maintain once the island reopens to visitors. That’s scheduled to happen between June 15 and July 1, though some locals are understandably wary.
Antigua and Barbuda has set a more precise date. A flight from Miami on June 4 will be the first international arrival in 10 weeks. Flights from New York are expected to resume later in the summer.
- A proposal the government is considering would force travelers to undergo a COVID-19 test before arriving at the airport and then restrict them to their resorts (including beaches) for the duration of their stay.
- Hotel staff would be tested before returning to work and live on the property to avoid bringing infections in, Prime Minister Gaston Browne told the Miami Herald.
- Some protocols are still in development, including how to move people swiftly through the airport without unnecessary crowding.
Zoom out: Most Caribbean islands have seen relatively few cases of COVID-19, meaning the main concern is keeping infections out.
- However, the Dominican Republic has the largest outbreak in the Caribbean, with 428 deaths to date.
- Last June and July, the country welcomed around 150,000 visitors per week. This year, it’s unclear when that number will tick up from approximately zero.
- Tourism Minister Francisco Javier García said on Friday that travel protocols would be ready “in a month,” after which international arrivals would be allowed into less-affected areas, according to local media.
- But even as supply returns, it’s unclear when demand will follow.
What to watch: In the Caribbean, disaster is always just a hurricane away. But little international aid has flowed to this most-tourism dependent of regions during the current crisis.
- Only Haiti was covered by an IMF plan for the world’s poorest countries. Others are too wealthy, on paper at least, mainly because of the tourism revenues that have now evaporated.
- Caribbean islands can’t afford to simply wait out this storm. But it may prove impossible to bring tourists in and keep COVID-19 out.
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