Stressing the need for a safe reopening of the island’s tourism, Minister of Tourism Senator Lisa Cummins on Friday welcomed the news that the US government’s disease watchdog is expected to downgrade its COVID-19 level warning for travel to Barbados.
The announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) comes six weeks after the foreign affairs arm of the US Government, the US State Department, listed Barbados as “Level 4: Very High level of COVID-19” and warned against travel here. The move drew the ire of Barbadian officials including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which said the island did not deserve that level of warning.
The CDC website, which was last reviewed on April 2, said: “Because of the current situation in Barbados, even fully vaccinated travellers may be at risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 variants and should avoid all travel to Barbados”.
But as the island continues to record a positivity rate of less than two per cent of daily COVID-19 cases and roll out its vaccination programme, Senator Cummins said the warning was expected to change slightly.
“Certainly, yesterday’s advice from the CDC out of the United States that Barbados had moved from level 4 to level 3 is a positive signal, and it is a nod to the confidence from the United States, one of our major source markets, that we depend on each other in more ways than ever,” said the tourism minister.
“Level 3” indicates a “High” level of COVID-19. There are two other categories “Level 2: Moderate” and “Level 1: Low”.
Senator Cummins expressed optimism for a rebound of the island’s tourism industry with a new and improved marketing campaign, a safe reopening, expected increased airlift and the planned return of the cruise segment.
She made the comments at a virtual ceremony for the relaunch of the Barbados brand and the reopening of the market. The new Barbados brand – Little Island, Big Barbados – will promote the areas that the destination is “big on” despite its small size.
“So today, we are standing here as Barbados declaring to the world that this little island, in every way historically but definitely over this year, is punching above our weight,” she said.
Stressing that a safe reopening is critical, the tourism minister declared Barbados is ready to welcome visitors in a seamless way at both ports of entry. But she said the island is not prepared to do like other destinations and “remove nearly all public health screening and testing requirements for entry”.
“That is not Barbados’ way,” she said. “Safe Barbados is what we are prioritizing and what we are offering to our partners. We are offering new life into the arteries of Barbados for visitors and for our locals.”
Cabinet on Thursday approved new cruise protocols to allow for the safe travel of vaccinated cruisers.
Senator Cummins said: “We are making a gradual return. It begins somewhere close to the end of June into early July. We have new ship deployments. We have our first ship christening happening this October and in a few weeks we will be having a similar forum dedicated to the resumption of cruise [tourism].
“We are looking forward to continuing to work with our major cruise line partners about their plans for returning business to our shores.”