During curfew, Voyage Charters yachts sit idle at Sopers Hole. Charter companies and hotels are demanding information about reopening the borders. (File photo: CLAIRE SHEFCHIK)

With no confirmed date for the full reopening of the borders and no stated protocols in place for tourist arrivals in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, the approximately 140 hospitality business stakeholders who attended the
BVI Chamber of Commerce and Hotel Association’s virtual meeting on Monday were mostly seeking one thing: information from the government.

“[They need] a timeline for when the borders are going to open,” said Keiyia Jackson-George, executive director of the BVICCHA. “They don’t know when to start marketing. They don’t know what to tell the people that have reservations, because a lot of them have current reservations. A lot of them have been moving them and moving them, but they have nothing solid to tell the people who are making the reservation.”

Based on feedback from the stakeholders, the chamber drew up a list of four requests it plans to submit to the BVI Tourist Board.

The first is a request for announcement by June 30 of a firm date for opening the borders.

Nearly a dozen Caribbean countries have either already opened or announced dates for opening.

“Those who would normally come here are going to other places that are open,” said Ms. Jackson-George.

A second concern was about travelers’ insurance: “In the event that you get sick while you’re here, does your plan cover that?” she asked.

Third, some stakeholders pointed out that not all hospitality industries are the same. For instance, charter guests who stay on a boat for nearly their entire trip may not pose the same risk of spreading the virus as hotel guests who might interact with many more people.

“What part of the industry will open sooner rather than later?” Ms. Jackson-George asked. “We need the business sector to know what critical resources
the government has, that the private sector can help with. Where are they lacking?”

Protocols for testing

Countries that have reopened their borders have put various protocols in place involving quarantine and testing, whether before the trip or upon arrival.

So the businesses’ fourth request is for the VI to discuss such protocols so that they will know what to tell their guests.

“What are the border management and protocols that are going to be put in place?” Ms. Jackson-George asked. “And when I say border management,
what’s going to happen when you touch down or before you come here?”

Right now, protocols vary across the region, she said, but “what we’re lobbying for is that the Caribbean has one protocol: … Throughout the region, there
is a basic level of basic protocols that all countries are going to have.”

But before that happens, she added, each country needs to start the discussion on its own.

“Again, not knowing anything is a major concern, because it’s almost like they’re stringing them along,” she said.

The significance of having more than 100 people attend the
meeting was not lost on Ms. Jackson-George, who said previous
sessions numbered around 50 attendees. “That’s a big difference,”
she said, adding, “This is important. And we understand that health is important, but there has to be a balance [with] economic health.”