(Barbados Today) – If the nation’s hoteliers had their way, it would be mandatory for every passenger seeking to travel to Barbados to take a COVID-19 test before they land here.
But for now, their umbrella organisation, the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Organisation (BHTA) has thrown its full support behind the Ministry of Health’s enforcement of health protocols by the COVID-19 Monitoring Unit, which has led to the temporary closure of some popular entertainment spots.
BHTA chairman Geoffrey Roach suggested on Thursday that Barbados could be losing out on some visitors coming to the island because they were uncomfortable with the current protocols in place for travellers.
As at August 2, all visitors are encouraged to take a COVID-19 PCR test from an accredited facility 72-hours prior to travel. Travellers from high, medium or low risk regions are still allowed to come to Barbados without a negative COVID-19 PCR test, but would be required to take one upon arrival.
Roach said: “We are of the view that a requirement for 100 per cent testing before boarding a flight to Barbados would be our preferred approach, particularly for persons coming from high and medium risk countries.
“This is because we have had some feedback that there are some persons who would like to travel to Barbados but the concern they have is boarding a flight, having had a test, and the potential risk of sitting next to someone who has not had a test and exposing themselves.
“So as an association, we want to reiterate that we would prefer to see a situation where the Government require testing of all persons before boarding flights.”
At the same time, Roach said the BHTA has been encouraging its members to follow the protocols in place for the sector in an effort to protect their staff and patrons.
In relation to the closure of some entertainment spots, including those in the tourist hotspot of St Lawrence Gap, BHTA Chief Executive Senator Rudy Grant said it was important that clubs follow the rules in an effort to help manage the risks associated with the deadly viral illness.
Senator Grant said: “We do have to adhere to the protocols. That is very important.
“You would know that based on the recent return of commercial flights that the positive COVID-19 individuals have thus far been persons coming out of the source markets.
“We at the BHTA are supportive of what the Ministry of Health is doing in relation to the protocols.
“We would have had significant discussions with the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Tourism in relation to the development of the various tourism protocols and we therefore fully support what is being put in place.
“We believe that it is important to have a good balance – to balance what is required by the protocols but also to properly facilitate persons being able to have a wonderful time as they visit the different tourism activities.”
On Sunday, August 2, officers of the COVID-19 Monitoring Unit closed several businesses on the south coast, saying they were in breach of the protocols relating to the wearing of mask in public spaces.
Then on Sunday, August 16, the coronavirus watchdog again closed one bar and a nightclub and issued warnings to three other establishments in breach of the COVID-19 protocols, following inspections.
Grant said the BHTA has been working closely with its members in St Lawrence Gap over the years to ensure safety and cleanliness.
He added: “We also want to make sure that visitors to Barbados are able to have a good experience being in St Lawrence Gap and participating in the different activities that are available there.
“But I must underscore that as we do that, we must ensure that we adhere to the protocols. Those protocols are put in place to minimise the risks. Those protocols are put in place to ensure that there is no community transmission.”