The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) has lobbied Canada to reverse its new policy that requires anyone returning to the country to present a negative COVID-19 RT/PCR test, with the CHTA’s Acting Chief Executive Officer and Director General Vanessa Ledesma contending in a press statement on the weekend that Canada’s move will create more economic hardship for the Caribbean region.
Canada’s policy change, which came into effect on January 7, prompted the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation (MOTA) to issue a release on the new testing requirement.
In a submission to Canada’s Minister of Transport Marc Garneau and shared with Canadian high commissions and consulates across the region, the CHTA wrote: “On behalf of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association and the 33 national hotel and tourism associations throughout the region, which are a part of our federation, we respectfully request reconsideration of this policy for the Caribbean.”
The CHTA noted in its statement that the mere announcement of the new policy has already prompted “a rash of cancellations by Canadians”.
“This policy is creating challenges and places even greater economic hardship on the people and governments of the Caribbean and on the thousands of Canadians currently in the Caribbean who are scheduled to return home in the coming weeks,” said Ledesma.
“As the policy takes effect, we anticipate many stranded Canadians being unable to return home due to their inability to get tests in the required time.”
According to Canada’s new policy, anyone who is not able to acquire a RT/PCR test before returning to Canada will be required to quarantine in a government facility.
CHTA noted in its statement that while it understands Canada’s position is to mitigate COVID-19 infections, “The region’s commitment to the health and safety of residents and travelers is best demonstrated by the COVID-19 protocols and containment measures which are in place throughout the Caribbean and the thousands of tourism employees who have undergone health safety training conducted by CHTA and its health safety partners, the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).”
Ledesma said in the statement that this position is backed by low tourism-related COVID-19 transmission rates throughout the islands.
“CHTA believes the region’s success in maintaining one of the lowest incident rates of COVID-19 in the world is largely because of the stringent health safety and testing measures which are in place, thanks to the leadership of many Caribbean heads of government and the strong partnerships between the health and tourism sectors,” the statement pointed out.