Cane Garden Bay
With borders closed to tourists, even Cane Garden Bay is often mostly empty. That could change after Dec. 1. (File photo: CLAIRE SHEFCHIK)

The government’s plan to welcome back tourists on Dec. 1 seems reasonable, but we were disappointed that last week’s announcement was not accompanied with a detailed roadmap for the way forward.

Leaders should produce one as soon as possible.

There are many unanswered questions about the reopening, many of which could have been answered long ago.

For example, will there be a phased approach, with certain categories of tourist allowed first, or will everyone be permitted to return at once? What quarantine and testing procedures will be required? Will different rules be in place for land-based and water-based tourists? How will residents and visitors be kept safe?

Most tourists seem unlikely to book a trip if such questions aren’t answered — or if they fear the rules will change unexpectedly.

Virgin Islands businesses, meanwhile, have many decisions to make in the short time between now and Dec. 1. Should they hire or rehire staff? Should they order supplies? Should they put their yachts in the water or prepare their land-based accommodations? How should they advertise?

Without a clear national strategy in place, many tourists and businesses alike will be frozen in place, and the industry won’t spring back to life in the way that leaders envision.

For such reasons, we were glad to hear Premier Andrew Fahie promise last week that businesses and other stakeholders will be consulted soon in order to determine the way forward.

Of course, this move is coming very late: Though we support leaders’ decision to prohibit visitors so far, it was extremely disappointing to hear the BVI Chamber of Commerce and Hotel Association complain recently that its five letters to government since the start of the pandemic — many of which offered reasonable suggestions for reopening — had received no response.

But late is better than never. We hope that consultations — including sessions open to the general public — will be hosted very soon. After receiving input, the government will need to work very quickly to publish a comprehensive reopening strategy straightaway.

The document should clearly answer all the questions posed above and many more. It should also include detailed timelines for accomplishing specific goals as the preparations get under way.

Finally, it should provide contingency plans for various scenarios ranging from the best case, with no new Covid-19 cases confirmed between now and Dec. 1, to the worst case, with a third wave putting dangerous pressure on medical services and necessitating another border closure.

We understand that planning ahead is extraordinarily difficult during such an uncertain time. But this uncertainty doesn’t preclude the publication of a detailed re-opening strategy that provides as much information as possible while being transparent about the unknowns.

Only with such a roadmap in place will residents and visitors be able to make well-informed decisions about their own way forward. And only then will the reopening be as safe and successful as leaders have promised.

 


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