One of the world’s leading leisure and travel companies is reportedly bypassing Barbados as a destination of choice for its customers in favour of others with less stringent COVID-19 protocols regarding testing.
And while acknowledging she was aware of this news regarding the German-based TUI Group (Touristik Union International) Minister of Tourism Senator Lisa Cummins says Barbados is willing to sacrifice some business from major industry partners rather than putting the population at “risk”.
She made the comments on Wednesday in response to concerns that Barbados could be losing some major business from the influential TUI Group which has decided to sever ties with destinations with strict protocols and only deal with those with more relaxed or no protocols in place.
It is understood that TUI has already informed authorities in Bridgetown of its intention not to do business with a destination where there is a requirement for a second test or quarantine.
During the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association’s (BHTA) fourth quarterly general meeting, which was held virtually, immediate past president of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association Patricia Affonso-Dass raised the concern, asking what plans were in place to fill that void.
In response, Cummins said she has already spoken to officials of the group, which owns travel agencies, airlines, cruise ships and hotels and was made aware of their position.
However, Cummins categorically stated that Barbados prides itself on being a safe destination and would continue to do whatever it takes to maintain that status.
“What makes us safe has been the level of diligence being practised by our public health officials. When we started with the second test there was a lot of resistance in some instances, but over time we have begun to see more countries reaching out to me and our public health officials, looking to introduce a second test. We have seen across the region that has been the case,” said Cummins.
She said this decision was taken by Barbados to ensure that residents and guests were kept safe. She explained that the data currently showed that about 95 per cent of the positive cases of COVID-19 detected were due to the second test.
“We are very happy that partners like British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines and others, and even in our conversations with IATA, have been supportive of the measures that Barbados has put in place.
“On the other hand, there are partners who, in my view, are making a decision that puts their guests at risk and Barbados will not be a part of that. That is a choice they will make on their own,” said Cummins, who insisted that the second test “will remain in place”.
However, she agreed there needed to be a strategic plan in place to fill any gaps that could be created as the island continues to depend heavily on the bread and butter tourism industry.
In that regard, Cummins said the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) has been charged with the responsibility for ensuring “market penetration”.
She explained that once the BTMI received the occupancy projections from BHTA members for the months of December, January and February, the marketing arm would work with those members “to match” projections with marketing and development partnership, to “fill as many rooms as possible”.
“But what we will not do is fill as many rooms as possible and with any partners that we can, at any cost. So if they have chosen, and I know they have chosen to go to other destinations, that is a choice that TUI can make. That is their decision to make. But for Barbados, we will protect this homeland with everything we have because at the end of COVID we have to ensure when guests come to Barbados they are able to benefit from a safe destination and able to benefit from a population that receives them warmly,” said Cummins.
“We have to make sure we find that balance. It is an unfortunate position taken by TUI that they are more amenable to relaxed restrictions or no restrictions because we don’t think that keeps their guests safe. It certainly doesn’t keep us safe,” she added. (Barbados Today)