Colors: Yellow Color
Colors: Yellow Color

Following a meeting with American Airlines in Dallas, Texas on Friday, U.S. Virgin Islands Commissioner of Tourism Joseph Boschulte announced that the nation’s largest carrier will expand its service to the Territory to meet increased demand for summertime travel.

Beginning on June 3, 2021, passengers in Dallas or connecting from Western and Midwestern cities will have not one but two daily flights from which to choose when traveling to St. Thomas, while Charlotte, North Carolina-based travelers will benefit from three flights per day, up from twice a day.

The airline will also increase daily flights from Miami International Airport (MIA) to Cyril E. King Airport (STT) on St. Thomas. Up to four daily departures will be available in April and May from the key south Florida airport before the schedule is adjusted to three daily flights in June, July and August.

Daily service to St. Thomas from the New York tri-state area, out of John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), which continues to be an exceptionally strong market for the Territory, as well as from Philadelphia to St. Thomas, will meet the travel needs of visitors and members of the large U.S. Virgin Islands diaspora who reside in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions of the country.

“The Department of Tourism is extremely pleased by the increase of summer airlift into the Territory,” said U.S. Virgin Islands Commissioner of Tourism Joseph Boschulte, who expressed confidence that demand for experiences in the USVI will continue to grow as mainland-based travelers, including the increasing number of those who have been vaccinated, regain confidence in travel.

American will serve St. Croix’s Henry E. Rohlsen Airport (STX) from Miami with at least two daily flights, and summer travelers from Charlotte will continue to enjoy daily flights to the “Big Island”. Overall, St. Croix has experienced an increase of 19 percent in weekly seats year-over-year from 2020 to 2021.

“We are grateful to our partners at American Airlines for supporting our lifeblood industry by enhancing service to our islands with these additional flights, as they represent critical opportunities to help stimulate the economy of the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Commissioner Boschulte, who addressed meeting planners, travel agents and media representatives at a travel industry luncheon in Dallas on Friday.

This summer the Territory also will welcome new flights (four days a week) from the New York tri-state area when JetBlue Airways begins service between Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) and St. Thomas. The new service is a result of a new codeshare Northeast Alliance with American Airlines, which will see JetBlue add more than a dozen new markets in greater New York City.

It may only be possible to introduce a vaccine passports scheme once all adults have been offered a jab, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suggested.

He said no decisions had been made but there would be an update on the idea in April. A review will report in June. He also said that there were difficult issues, moral complexities and ethical problems that need to be addressed. Any passport could also reflect a negative test result as well as whether someone was vaccinated or has immunity.

It comes as publicans cast doubt on a suggestion from Mr Johnson that pub-goers might have to prove their vaccination status when venues reopen. A government review into the possible use of coronavirus passports or status certificates to allow people to visit pubs and other venues is taking place under the plans to ease England's lockdown.

The Prime Minister said previous coronavirus infections could be a feature used if they are adopted. "There are three basic components.” He said. “There's the vaccine, there's your immunity you might have had after you've had Covid, and there's testing - they are three things that could work together."

He added: "No decisions have been taken at all. One thing I will make clear is none of this is obviously going to apply on April 12 when it will all be outdoors anyway.

"There are some people who for medical reasons can't get a vaccination, pregnant women can't get a vaccination at the moment, you've got to be careful about how you do this. You might only be able to implement a thorough-going vaccination passport scheme even if you wanted such a thing in the context of when absolutely everybody had been offered a vaccine."

In the Commons, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove told MPs: "A system that relied purely on vaccination would not be appropriate - that what would be right was a system that ensured we could open up our economy to the maximum extent that takes into account both of vaccine status but also of recent test status and indeed potentially also antibody status as well." Under government plans to ease the lockdown in England, pubs will be able to start serving customers indoors - with a size limit applied to groups - from 17 May at the earliest.

The idea of asking pub-goers to show a so-called vaccine passport or certificate was raised at Wednesday's House of Commons Liaison Committee hearing when Boris Johnson was asked whether they were compatible with a free society such as ours. His reply came with him saying: “The concept should not be totally alien to us."

He pointed out that doctors already have to have hepatitis B jabs - although he stressed such a move in future may be up to individual publicans. A Downing Street source earlier said the review would include looking at how people's vaccination and testing status could be stored securely and displayed on a mobile phone, and the circumstances under which such a system could apply.

PM Johnson said: "All sorts of things were being considered and it is a bit premature to speculate on details about how a possible vaccine passport would apply to pubs”. Peter Marks, from nightclub owner Rekom UK, said: “A vaccine certificate could work in his industry and would probably be accepted by customers already used to carrying IDs to get into venues. However, he said he was concerned introducing such a measure could delay the reopening of businesses.

Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said that Labour was happy to look at any government proposals for vaccine and testing certification, but he called for clarity for the hospitality industry about how the measures could work in practice.

He said the hospitality industry had been through difficult times over the last year, adding: "And suddenly the prime minister comes along, out of the blue, to say here's a new responsibility you're going to have to deal with, without much clarity."

Professor Avinash Persaud, the chairman of Barbados’ supra regulatory body, the Financial Services Commission (FSC), says the island continues its push for a healthy balance between strong regulation and increased efficiencies.

Persaud, an economist and prolific commentator on the financial sector, is the keynote speaker for the inaugural Barbados Risk & Insurance Management (BRIM) virtual conference, which is being hosted on March 24 and 25 by BIBA, the Association for Global Business. In a preview of his highly anticipated presentation, Prof. Persaud said Barbados is home to almost 300 captive insurance entities.

And, he notes, those in the international insurance sector are satisfied with the knowledge that the island is “a place where they will be well regulated”. According to the FSC chairman, it is “a very exciting time for the insurance sector”, as old models are being challenged on both the assets and liabilities sides by issues such as climate change and pandemics.

“There is a tremendous amount of opportunity as new technology allows you to reach new customers. We see new opportunities for assets like renewable energy ... and new types of instruments that can help insurers better manage their liabilities.” Describing the period as an “age of transition” for the insurance sector, Prof. Persaud said Barbados’ regulators were examining ways in which they could support the sector “in an appropriate and safe manner”.

Simultaneously, the regulator said the agency remained focused on its key roles of “protecting consumers and making sure the financial system was safe”. For captive insurance companies, improved FSC processes have reduced application times from 12 to four weeks, and efforts continue to reduce that period to a fortnight.

Barbados was recently removed from the European Union’s (EU) blacklist for tax purposes, following four months of vigorous arguments and actions led by the island’s Prime Minister, Mia Amor Mottley. The FSC has assembled a team of international and local experts to support the Barbados regulators in ensuring its reputation is untarnished.

In this connection, the FSC chairman said the administration was investing heavily in building out regulatory and enforcement agencies and creating new structures to
boost Barbados’ response capabilities and compliance. “We think we are going to be off these lists, and we are investing heavily in remaining off these lists,” he said, adding that the country was taking a long-term approach, anticipating international regulations that may be coming in the future.

Persaud is among a stellar line-up for BRIM 2021, which includes Michael Serricchio, Managing Director of Marsh Captive Solutions in the Americas; Daryl Senick, Partner and National Insurance Leader with BDO Canada; Elizabeth Emanuel, Technical Assistance Manager for CCRIF SPC (formerly Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility); and Ben Arrindell, Deputy Chairman of Cidel Bank & Trust and a special advisor to Prime Minister Mottley on international business matters.

Among the many topics up for discussion at the conference are:

• Risk Management Post-Pandemic
• Emerging Markets – New Opportunities
• Investment Opportunities in a Low Yield Environment
• New Initiatives in Captives - Covering Cyber Risk and Pandemic Risk
• Risk Management & Climate Change
• Managing Investment Portfolios for Captives
• Regulation in a Post-COVID World
• Disaster Risk Financing and Sustainable Development - A Look at Parametric Insurance at the Sovereign and Micro Levels
• IFRS 17 - It's time for a Straight Line to the Finish

Persaud showered praise on BIBA for highlighting the group’s commitment and innovation in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. “BIBA has stepped out and is using technology and the occasion to reach a wider audience on a specialized and interesting topic. I am very excited about the event.”

The staging of this conference is made possible by Diamond Sponsors RBC Dominion Securities Global, and the USA Risk Group; Platinum Sponsor London & Capital; Gold Sponsor Strategic Risk Solutions; Silver Sponsors Clarity Life and C&W Business; and Bronze Sponsors Invest Barbados, Sagicor Life Inc, and Summit Asset Management.

Comfort Suites Paradise Island has announced the availability of free COVID-19 rapid antigen testing for all of its international guests who have plans for return travel to the United States. The popular all-suite hotel reopened to guests in December 2020 and has since taken stringent measures to ensure the safety, health and convenience of its guests.

The Bahamian government requires all visitors to take a rapid antigen COVID-19 test on the fifth day of their stay, and guests must produce a valid negative result. This second test follows the initial PCR test that is required no more than five days prior to each guest’s arrival in The Bahamas.

Additionally, the United States government requires travelers returning to the U.S. to likewise present a negative result from a rapid antigen COVID-19 test taken within three days of departure and presented at the airport. Visitors returning to the United States are permitted to use their Bahamian government-required, fifth-day rapid antigen test results to reenter the United States, once the traveler departs on his or her sixth, seventh or eighth day of stay.

Given these restrictions and requirements, Comfort Suites Paradise Island decided to offer rapid antigen COVID-19 tests to all registered guests free of charge, for return travel to the U.S., excluding stays with gift certificate redemption.

Yasmine Mills-Strachan, Director of Sales at Comfort Suites Paradise Island, said: “At Comfort Suites Paradise Island, we understand that the current travel restrictions can be a bit confusing, however, we would like to remind our guests that it is still very important to abide by these protocols. With this new, free rapid antigen (COVID-19) testing service provided by our hotel, we hope to make guests’ stays more comfortable, while ensuring their safety, as well as that of our staff and residents.”

Comfort Suites Paradise Island has also partnered with Ocean Club Golf Course and neighbouring properties, including Atlantis Paradise Island Resort, and The Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort, to create the ideal Paradise Island Safe Zone (Paradise Island Bubble). Guests can feel safe moving freely throughout each of these popular vacation spots where COVID-19 precautions are of utmost priority.

Guests receive free access to the facilities of Atlantis Paradise Island Resort, including the Aquaventure water park. Through May 31, 2021, visitors can take advantage of Comfort Suites Paradise Island’s “4th Night Free” promotion, which affords guests a complimentary fourth night with three paid nights at the property.

The promotion includes food and beverage credits of up to US$300 (based on length of stay), which can be used at the hotel’s Splash Pool Bar, Bamboo Lobby Bar and Crusoe’s Restaurant.

As part of its global efforts to work with governments and tourism agencies to support responsible travel and local economic growth, Airbnb announced its partnership with the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) to promote its member countries across Airbnb's vast global community. This collaboration is designed to amplify the Caribbean's recovery from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic by promoting safe, responsible travel to the region.

As part of this partnership, Airbnb is launching a marketing campaign that includes the rollout of a series of email newsletters and a landing page highlighting the CTO's member countries and their respective protocols for safe travel during this time. Airbnb has also pledged to share data with the CTO, including travel trends, to facilitate informed marketing decisions during this recovery period. The promotional landing page for this partnership will be unique to others worldwide. It will integrate 18 countries from the English, French and Dutch Caribbean, promote homes in each destination, and links to each country's website. 

"With the Caribbean continuing to re-open, we're helping to usher in the safe return of travel to this wonderful region by shining a light on the many places to see and things to do," said Carlos Munoz, Airbnb Policy Manager for Central America and the Caribbean. "We're also excited to promote the important economic impact driven by hosting on Airbnb."

This partnership is one of the many initiatives in the CTO's ongoing programme to help its members rebuild tourism in their destinations. "The partnership with Airbnb will help us to promote the region responsibly by providing our members with a platform to showcase their destinations while at the same time highlighting the health safety measures that each has implemented to ensure that visitors can enjoy a safe Caribbean experience during this time," shared Neil Walters, Acting Secretary-General of the CTO.

P&O Cruises has said that anyone wanting to take its cruises around the British Isles this summer will need to be vaccinated first. Travellers will have to prove that they have had two coronavirus jabs to take the trips which depart from June.

Saga Cruises and Virgin Voyages in the US have made similar moves recently. It comes amid renewed fears about the damaged travel industry, with airports warning that summer 2020 passenger numbers were their lowest since 1975.

P&O Cruises, part of the Carnival group, will run trips on two ships this summer. The Britannia will cruise from Southampton along the south coast of England for three or four days, and the Iona will travel up to Scotland from Southampton for seven-day trips.

Carnival said that passengers wishing to board would have to have had both.

Guests will also have to have travel insurance that "must include medical and repatriation cover" and medical expenses related to Covid-19. Guests and crew will be expected to respect social distancing rules and wear masks when appropriate. Should anyone test positive on board, they will be isolated and quarantined.

Paul Ludlow, the president of P&O Cruises, said: “Carnival expected a government-approved way to prove people had been vaccinated by the summer.

"This is moving at pace," he said. "We anticipate by the 27 June, which is our first sailing, there will be a government-accredited scheme to prove your vaccination, but at the very least, then of course, a letter from your GP would suffice."

He said that P&O Cruises was "in close conversation with government every day" about travellers being able to prove their vaccination status.

"At the moment we're stipulating that all guests of all ages must be vaccinated to come on board with us."

Carnival follows Saga cruises, which said in January that all customers had to be vaccinated. British Airways also plans to let people register when they have had two vaccinations on a smartphone app. The cruise industry was brought to its knees after regulators around the world stopped ships from sailing to try to limit outbreaks.

There were a number of deaths from Covid-19 after people were infected on board Carnival ships early last year. The first UK citizen to die of coronavirus was infected on the Carnival-run Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan. At the time, the outbreak on the ship was the largest outside mainland China, with more than 600 people infected.

Simon Calder, travel editor of the Independent, said: "A lot is unusual" about the "staycation" cruises P&O is planning.

"Because the voyages are 'cruises to nowhere', the captains will look at the weather forecast and aim to sail where it is warm and sunny." He added the P&O concept is "you can look but you can't touch".

"On a voyage around the Scottish islands, for example, Iona will anchor off Iona, the magical island after which she was named, but you can't step ashore," he said, adding: “Doing this circumvents all kinds of problems.

"There are concerns about shore excursions. Some ports of call may not welcome hundreds of people from a wide range of locations wandering around, and conversely some cruise lines do not want their passengers to mingle with locals - MSC Cruises has made it a condition of travel.” Carnival has been burning through cash and last quarter said it had made a net loss of $2.2bn.

Airport operators have also been on the ropes due to the coronavirus crisis. They said that passenger numbers travelling through UK airports last summer plunged to their lowest level since 1975. Airport Operators Association chief executive Karen Dee called for tailored government support.

She said: "Despite dealing with the biggest crisis in their history, most airports remain operational to support vital public services, such as Royal Mail, air ambulances, Coastguard and the National Police Air Service, as well as other critical services such as freight, including PPE and vaccines."  The Unite union also called for tailored support, saying that more than 5,100 UK aviation and related jobs have been lost every month since February 2020.

Unite assistant general secretary for transport Diana Holland said: "It has been heart-breaking to see so many UK jobs go in aviation when we know that demand will come back.

"A staggering number of workers in the sector are now unemployed but when we look across the Channel, we see that a different approach from governments actually saves these jobs.” The government has previously said that it has provided unprecedented support to businesses across sectors of the economy including aviation.

A spokesperson said that the government was committed to restarting cruise travel when it is safe to do so, and is working closely with the sector to prepare for a safe and successful restart.

The spokesperson said: "We have put in place an unprecedented package of business support and recently extended government-backed loans and furlough payments to businesses, including in the travel industry. Around £7bn has been pledged to the aviation sector since the start of the pandemic, and through the Global Travel Taskforce we are working hard to restart international travel when it is safe to do so."

A new study by travel insurance provider battleface reveals that Britsish people are willing to pay £22 per person on average for a PCR test (COVID test) before embarking on international travel. However, 33% said they would not be prepared to pay for a PCR test – either at home or at the airport - before travelling internationally.

As the prospect of international travel nears, many countries are requiring travellers to submit a negative PCR test result on arrival, taken within a certain time frame before travel. UK travellers are not permitted to use NHS tests for travel, except for freight drivers in certain circumstances. Private tests can cost £120 on the high street or over £200 at some clinics. Only 4% of those surveyed would be prepared to pay £75 or more for a PCR test, if it meant they could travel internationally, which is still considerably lower than the private PCR tests currently being offered to enable travel.

After almost 12 months together under lockdown restrictions, families should be looking forward to escaping to warmer climes and reunite with loved ones on holiday. However, 40% say they would not be willing pay for their family to have a PCR test to be able to travel.

The study of 2,000 UK adults was carried out between 5 and 9 March by Opinium Research on behalf of travel insurance provider battleface to look at the immediate motivators and barriers to international travel for 2021.

Sasha Gainullin, CEO, battleface comments: “It’s good news that the majority of travellers will be willing to take a COVID PCR test in order to go on holiday. That said, the current costs of PCR testing makes this option unviable for most travellers based on what they are prepared to spend on testing.

“Whilst vaccination passports and PCRs are expected to be the two key requirements for travel to restart, there is still a high degree of uncertainty which changes the risk profile for travel. The data shows that 23% are still prepared to travel without adequate medical cover, which is worrying given that a similar proportion of those asked (22%) said they have been caught out in fees when travelling without insurance.

“We urge travellers to check what the latest FCDO and destination entry requirements are before going away and, in addition to a PCR test or vaccine, ensure they have relevant and adequate travel insurance cover for the country they are travelling to.”

The St. Lucia Tourism Authority is planning a new series of virtual global roadshows for the travel trade in readiness for the easing of travel restrictions later this year.

Aimed at travel agents and reservation staff in the main source markets - the US, the UK and Canada - the three events come as vaccination programmes are underway and holidaymakers are looking ahead to when they can travel abroad again.

The global roadshows will be different from webinars as they go a step further in recreating a fam trip experience online. Participants will get a close-up perspective of Saint Lucia’s hotels, activities and landscape to show what makes it a compelling destination for visitors.

Hosted live by the sales team in Saint Lucia with market representatives on hand to answer questions and provide specific information, the roadshows are a fun and interactive way to update and inform agents who sell holidays in the Caribbean.

P&O Cruises has cancelled all international cruises on Arcadia, Aurora, Azura and Ventura until the end of August. Trips outside of the UK on Britannia and Iona have also been scrapped until the end of September.

P&O Cruises president, Paul Ludlow, said: “We remain in very close contact with the UK government and associated bodies as we monitor the latest situation and guidance on travel.

From the moment we see travel restrictions lifting we will begin the significant logistical task to restart our operations. It will take some time for the first ship to return to service, followed by the phased return of the remaining fleet.”

P&O Cruises will instead offer a series of short break and week-long UK cruises this summer.

The ex-UK trips will go on sale later in March.

The U.S. Travel Association praised the Thursday introduction of one of its major legislative priorities: a bill providing much-needed assistance to the devastated travel industry through numerous key incentive and relief measures.

The bipartisan Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act provides stimulus needed to help bring back the millions of travel jobs lost to the pandemic. Specifically, the bill provides:

 A temporary business tax credit to revitalise business meetings, conferences and other structured events.

 A temporarily restored entertainment business expense deduction to help entertainment venues and performing arts centres recover.

 An individual tax credit to stimulate non-business travel.

 Tax relief for restaurants and food and beverage companies to help restore food service jobs and strengthen the entire American food supply chain.

The travel industry is by far the U.S. industry that has been hardest-hit by the COVID pandemic, losing half a trillion dollars in travel-related spending last year—10 times the negative economic impact of 9/11. Almost four in 10 U.S. jobs lost in 2020 are in the leisure and hospitality sector.

“The evidence is abundantly clear: there will not be a U.S. economic recovery without a travel recovery, and travel cannot recover without strong and innovative policy assistance,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “Even with the ray of hope provided by vaccines, it is unclear when travel demand will be able to rebound in earnest.

This bill contains critical provisions to assist in rebuilding this crucial but suffering American industry.”

U.S. Travel is leading a campaign to secure support for the Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act, submitting a letter to Capitol Hill signed by more than 80 major travel-related companies and organizations.

The principal sponsors of the Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act are Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND), and Reps. Steven Horsford (D-NV), Darin LaHood (R-IL), Tom Rice (R-SC) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA).

The U.S. Travel Association on Friday announced the election of Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, as its new national chair. Duffy, who most recently served on the board as first vice chair, will lead an executive committee and board representing a diverse cross-section of travel business sectors.

“We’re very pleased to welcome Christine as national chair of U.S. Travel, not only for her deep experience operating successful travel businesses, but also for the talent and savvy she will bring to helping restore one of America’s largest industry sectors following steep losses associated with the global pandemic,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow.

“There has never been a more critical time for the travel industry to come together to effect change and drive a financial recovery. If nothing else, the past year has demonstrated the economic power of the travel sector, as well as the affinity Americans have for the social, intellectual, relaxation and joyful benefits of travel,” said Duffy. “I look forward to working with the great leaders of the travel and tourism industry to chart a path to a new level of success.”

Duffy joined Carnival Cruise Line, the flagship brand of Miami-based global cruise industry leader Carnival Corp., in 2015 after serving as president and CEO of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). She has also served as president and CEO of Maritz Travel Company. As president of Carnival Cruise Line, Duffy oversees a company that sails a fleet of 24 ships, annually hosts nearly six million guests and employs more than 43,000 people from 110 nations around the globe. Duffy is the first woman to serve as president of Carnival Cruise Line.

Duffy sits on the corporate boards of directors of Aimbridge Hospitality, the global leader in hotel management services, and Herschend Family Entertainment, the nation’s largest family-owned operator of themed attractions, including Dollywood and Branson’s Silver Dollar City. She sits on the Professional Advisory Board of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital of which Carnival Cruise Line is the official celebration partner. Duffy is also a member of The Committee of 200, an organization of the world’s most successful women business leaders that supports, celebrates and advances women’s leadership. She was recently named by Women Leading Travel & Hospitality as one of its top women in travel and hospitality.

Duffy succeeds Destination DC President and CEO Elliott L. Ferguson, II, whose term as chair has concluded.

National carrier Kenya Airways has announced the resumption of its cargo services to New Delhi. The first cargo flight to resume from New Delhi has already landed at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, carrying pharmaceuticals, machinery and general merchandise from New Delhi.

Kenya Airways Cargo Director Dick Murianki said the weekly service will also serve to support Kenya’s intra-African export market and provide a welcome lifeline to many local businesses reliant on overseas markets. Murianki noted that KQ Cargo has rapidly scaled up its cargo services in an effort to address the growing need for air freight across the continent and will be connecting the ever-increasing number of international markets to help maintain and replenish essential supplies.

In a statement he said: “The resumption of direct weekly cargo flights from Nairobi to New Delhi, is an indication of the integral part KQ plays in providing logistics solutions to our customers based on our robust world class handling infrastructure and strong network footprint in Africa."  Key items to be uplifted from India include pharmaceutical and medical products, machinery, sports goods and general cargo.

The Cargo director added, "Cargo will continue to offer seamless connections in India to Nairobi, and the rest of Africa, including destinations such as Accra, Ghana; Lagos, Nigeria; and Lilongwe, Malawi".

From the need for enhanced political engagement to developing relevant expertise, the World Tourism Organization, jointly with the Caribbean Tourism Organization, have united their members in the Caribbean to address the key challenges they face in making effective use of statistics to drive the restart of their tourism sectors.

Over the course of two days, a regional virtual workshop analysed the importance of tourism data for supporting the sector in the present and helping tourism to restart in the Caribbean in a timely and sustainable manner. The workshop brought together around 130 participants from 23 States, including the leaders of National Tourism Administrations, National Statistical Offices, Central Banks and Migration authorities. 

The high-level status of participants ensures that they will in turn spread UNWTO’s technical expertise within their own countries, empowering more tourism professionals with knowledge of how best to analyse and use data to guide decisions. Through the sessions, the Caribbean tourism community got a better understanding of the fundamentals of tourism statistics. They were also given an overview of UNWTO’s Tourism Satellite Account (TSA) data, as well as guidance on how this can be used to guide decision-making. 

Welcoming UNWTO’s technical assistance, Neil Walters, Acting Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organization said: “We recognize the importance of data and statistics in the development of COVID-19 recovery programs and comprehensive sustainable tourism strategies. We thank the UNWTO for supporting our efforts at capacity building in tourism statistics analysis and reporting in the Caribbean.”

The workshop also emphasized the relevance of tourism statistics, both for informing the sector’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic but also, looking ahead, for its role in guiding sustainable development across the Caribbean region. As with every other global region, the crisis has hit the Caribbean hard. 

According to the latest UNWTO data, Caribbean destinations experienced a 67% fall in international tourist arrivals in 2020 compared to the previous year. Given the reliance of many destinations on the sector, this has placed large numbers of livelihoods and businesses at risk and makes the timely restart of tourism vital.

The U.S. Virgin Islands will welcome new flights from the New York tri-state area this summer when JetBlue Airways begins service between Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) and Cyril E. King Airport (STT) on St. Thomas. JetBlue announced the new flights will operate four times a week, beginning July 1, 2021.

According to the airline, the new service in operation is a result of a new Northeast Alliance with American Airlines, which will see JetBlue add more than a dozen new markets in greater New York City with new destinations offered from both LaGuardia Airport (LGA) and EWR.The routes, which include Newark to St. Thomas, help to strengthen JetBlue’s position as a dominant airline player in the New York market.

JetBlue and American Airlines recently announced the launch of the first phase of their new alliance, which is aimed at bringing customers more competitive choices in New York and Boston. The two airlines are introducing 33 new routes as part of the initial phase.

This spring, members of JetBlue’s TrueBlue and American’s AAdvantage loyalty programs will be able to enjoy reciprocal benefits, starting with the ability to earn points or miles on either carrier, enhancing the value of both programs.

“The northeast United States market is critically important to our tourism sector and our Virgin Islands communities in the Diaspora,” said Joseph Boschulte, Commissioner of Tourism for the U.S. Virgin Islands, who welcomed the new flights ahead of an expected busy summer travel season. The Commissioner affirmed demand for the U.S. Virgin Islands continues to be strong as airlines introduce new service and increase their flight frequency.

Frontier Airlines have launched new service between Orlando and St. Thomas, and will start Miami-St. Thomas flights this month. The winter season also brought new flights connecting St. Thomas with Minneapolis-St. Paul by both Sun Country Airlines and Delta Air Lines. Late last year, St. Thomas welcomed new service from New York with JetBlue Airways, which currently serves the island with nonstop flights from Boston and San Juan.

 

Leaders of several major U.S. airlines met online Friday with White House officials to press their case against requiring coronavirus tests for passengers on domestic flights, saying it would undermine the already fragile industry.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki downplayed speculation that the Biden administration could soon impose a requirement that passengers on domestic flights first pass a COVID-19 test. But she stopped short of taking the idea off the table. A person familiar with the discussions said the airline CEOs talked with White House coronavirus-response coordinator Jeff Zients, according to the person, who spoke anonymously to discuss a private meeting.

The CEOs of American, United, Southwest, Alaska and JetBlue all took part in the meeting, according to industry officials. The meeting was arranged after Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said that a testing requirement before domestic flights was under consideration.

Since late January, the CDC has required that international travellers show a negative COVID-19 test or recovery from the virus before they board a flight to the U.S. The airline industry generally supports that rule, believing that testing could eventually replace tougher international travel restrictions, such as quarantines.

Airlines reacted with alarm, however, when CDC officials raised the possibility of testing larger numbers of passengers on domestic flights. Airlines officials say that would further devastate air travel, which has still not returned even to half its pre-pandemic level. They worry that the additional cost of a test would discourage people from taking shorter trips.

The airlines also argue that there isn’t enough testing capacity to test every passenger. More than 1 million people went through checkpoints at U.S. airports in one recent day, according to figures from the Transportation Security Administration. They also say that requiring people to take a coronavirus test before flights would cause more people to drive — merely shifting the risk of spreading the virus from planes to cars.

Airline unions have joined the push against testing domestic passengers. The Southwest Airlines pilots’ union said a testing mandate “would decimate domestic air travel demand, put aviation jobs at risk, and create serious unintended consequences.”

 

The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) has warned that the region’s economic survival is in “serious jeopardy” as the tourism-dependent economies struggle with the consequences of the pandemic and travel restrictions being imposed and considered by its most popular countries of origin for travel. CHTA welcomed the new United States administration’s balanced international travel measures, which call for returning travellers and those entering the United States to show proof of receiving a negative antigen or PCR test while not mandating quarantines but recommending self-isolation upon returning.

The organization, whose membership includes 33 of the region’s national hotel and tourism associations, expressed its appreciation and concerns in a letter to President Joseph Biden and US government officials last week in response to the administration’s call for input on international travel protocols as part of an Executive Order on the matter. In throwing its support behind requiring travellers entering the US to show proof of a negative antigen test within 72 hours of travel, CHTA cautioned against the imposition of mandatory PCR tests for travellers returning to or entering the US from the Caribbean highlighting the stringent virus containment measures already in place within the region and the region’s challenges in administering a much larger number of PCR tests.

The organization said that should this become a new requirement, it would “severely strain the current testing capacity of many Caribbean jurisdictions” citing the availability, costs and processing time as essentially rendering much of the region unable to meet local and US traveller testing demand. CHTA noted that, in recent weeks, the region has moved aggressively to increase its capacity to administer PCR and antigen tests as it aims to meet local demand and adhere to new testing requirements for travelers and returning residents to its key source markets.

  

The organization indicated should this be put in place it would be devastating to the region’s economic health and also have further ramifications on the US economy. CHTA cited the “inextricable link between the economies of the Caribbean and the United States, and Florida, in particular, which provides many of the goods and services supportive of travel to the Caribbean.