PR – Grenada’s Prime Minister, Dr. the Right Honourable Keith Mitchell, is confident about the future of regional tourism despite current challenges facing the industry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Mitchell, a featured speaker in a regional high-level discussion on Tuesday, acknowledged that the continued spike in COVID-19 cases in some countries, the emergence of new, more aggressive variants and closure of borders create a sense of uncertainty about the future of tourism.
However, he said, “Notwithstanding the challenges, we continue to be optimistic that the tourism industry will rebound and recover. Our expectations in that regard must be tempered by an unwavering commitment to give priority consideration to the safety of our people. Placing safety at the pinnacle of our efforts to restart tourism will serve as an attraction in and of itself.”
Dr. Mitchell further stated that, “A country that demonstrates good COVID-19 management protocols, along with easy and efficient entry protocols will no doubt be included on the list of preferred destinations. In fact, Grenada has already been identified on a list of six countries that potential travellers should have on their radar to visit, once they have been vaccinated.”
The Grenadian leader is disappointed that no Caribbean country was included on the UK Green List, which identifies countries from where travellers will not be required to quarantine when entering the UK.
According to the Prime Minister, this calls for immediate action. He said, “This drives home the urgency for Grenada and other Caribbean countries to come together to lobby the UK for green light status, based on our relatively low case numbers and astute management of the pandemic. This will create a tremendous opportunity to increase the Caribbean’s global market share as many popular destinations in places such Italy, China, Spain, South Africa will be closed out.”
Reiterating his optimism about the future, Dr. Mitchell said, it’s an opportune time for Grenada and its Caribbean neighbours to focus more on intra-regional travel. Noting that considerable resources are invested in attracting visitors from around the world, Dr. Mitchell said countries must now look into tapping the regional market.
Elaborating on how to achieve this, Dr. Mitchell said, “One such initiative would be reducing the travel tax and making the cost of airline tickets more affordable. However, this must be a collaborative effort among the islands. If only one or two countries reduce the tax, it will not have the desired effect and what would essentially happen, is that those countries would lose revenue, while others continue to earn the same from the travel tax. We must work together on this.”
The Prime Minister believes this will also impact positively on the small, locally owned hotels, which are in many cases, the preferred option for regional travellers.
Another recommendation from the Grenadian leader was the need to place greater emphasis on heritage tourism. He said, “The Caribbean has a rich heritage and there is significant potential for that history and culture to become a more visible part of the attraction of various destinations. Therefore, greater emphasis should be placed on developing and promoting these sites.”
Dominica’s Prime Minister, Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit was also a panelist on Tuesday’s high-level regional dialogue and he too, cited the need for collective action, such as joint marketing to help generate greater benefits from the tourism sector.
Prime Minister Skerrit also called for the region to develop a harmonised system that provides clear and standardised information to travellers.
Like his Grenadian counterpart, he noted that while challenges exist, the pandemic has also created an opportunity to reshape and rethink the approach to tourism.
Tuesday’s discussion on the future of tourism was organised by the United Nations Development Programme. It was the first of five Regional Policy Dialogues aimed at discussing the new trends in the tourism sector and the role of MSMEs within the sector.