The UK’s 14-day quarantine on arrival proposal will be a "big deterrent" to the resumption of British tourism to the Caribbean, Saint Lucia’s tourism minister has told TTG.
Dominic Fedee, the Caribbean island’s tourism minister, who is also leading the regional response to the coronavirus crisis, said he would be writing to the British government requesting the quarantine requirement be changed, or softened in respect of the Caribbean.
Saint Lucia is due to reopen its borders on 4 June for the first time in two months, with plans for a "phased" resumption of the island’s tourism industry, which would see Saint Lucia initially operate at up to 15% of its usual tourism capacity.
“We want to be in a better position to be able to conduct a responsible tourism initiative at a time when the world is facing the global pandemic,” he said.
Saint Lucia, which closed its border on 23 March, has only recorded 18 cases of Covid-19 so far during the global crisis, with no deaths.
Fedee, who is also chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, said visitors to Saint Lucia will have to take “some kind of test” within 48 hours of travel to the island.
“We’re talking to airlines about social distancing and have agreements with US carriers that there will be nobody sitting in the middle seat, except for families travelling together,” he explained.
Passengers and cabin crew will also have to wear masks and other PPE during the entire flight to Saint Lucia, with passengers having their temperatures taken on arrival at the island’s airport.
“If a passenger has anything resembling a fever or a temperature, they will be taken for testing and have to go into isolation – hotels are expected to have quarantine rooms,” Fedee explained.
“It will be in the comfort of their own room and they can have room service. It will only take 24 hours to get the lab results.”
If the test comes back positive, the guest will then be transferred to hospital for further treatment. Fedee said the measures were designed to give “confidence” to visitors, as well as keeping both tourists and employees safe.
Initially, three flights from the US will operate to Saint Lucia, with British Airways not due to resume its route from Gatwick until July at the earliest.
Hotels and attractions are due to start reopening in the first week of June. But the number of buffets will be curtailed at hotels, while venues that cannot socially distance effectively will not be allowed to open.
“We’re not going to have attractions with hundreds of people at any given time – we don’t want a scenario where St Lucians or visitors are exposed,” added Fedee.
“We want to offer a good experience so we’re doing this in a very phased and calculated way. We’re starting with the hotels as it’s more manageable - you’ve got to start somewhere.”
Fedee said the UK government’s plans for a 14-day quarantine period for arriving air passengers could discourage bookings to the Caribbean.
“If people returning to the UK have to go into quarantine, that’s a big deterrent,” he added. “From a Caribbean point of view, we will ask the UK government if we can have this addressed because of the safety protocols and steps we’re taking to engender responsible tourism.
“We will be writing formally to the British government asking for the quarantine to be changed, particularly for the Caribbean.”