TORONTO — After struggling for close to a year to recover its tourism losses, the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) is anticipating “immediate fallout” from Canada’s blanket-wide cancellation of sun flights.
Speaking exclusively with Travelweek, CTO’s Acting Secretary General Neil Walters says that last week’s announcement by the federal government regarding new restrictions on travel to the Caribbean will have a negative impact on the region’s tourism sector, which has already been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Canada has traditionally been a key market for the Caribbean so there will be immediate fallout for the Caribbean and its economies, where millions of people rely on tourism and related activities for a living,” says Walters.
The federal government’s new restrictions, which include the cancellation of all flights to the Caribbean and Mexico through April 30 on all four of Canada’s top airlines (Air Canada, WestJet, Transat and Sunwing), were announced on Jan. 29 by Prime Minister Trudeau as a way to protect Canada’s borders from COVID-19 and its new variants.
The restrictions also include mandatory PCR testing at Canada’s four largest airports (Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary), the funneling of all international passenger flights through these four airports, and costly “supervised hotel” quarantines, all of which will be implemented as early as this week despite the fact that less than 2% of COVID-19 cases are linked to international travel.
“The Caribbean has worked tirelessly to implement stringent protocols to ensure the health and safety of our residents and visitors and these efforts will continue,” adds Walters. “We are monitoring the vaccine rollout and the overall management of COVID-19 spread in our major markets, including Canada. We expect that the stringent measures being taken across the Caribbean to control the spread of COVID-19 will encourage Canadians to travel to the Caribbean for well-deserved holidays later in 2021.”
Noting the importance of airlift to the region and the integral role airlines play in the tourism sector, Walters has this to say about Canada’s carriers:
“Like the rest of tourism, they have suffered immense losses, still they have come to the table in good faith to help restart travel as early and safely as possible. The Caribbean will continue to collaborate with the Canadian and other airlines as we seek to safely return travel to pre-COVID-19 levels in the future.”