The Montserrat Tourism Division hosted a Town Hall Meeting with stakeholders last Friday, June 12th at the Cultural Centre to discuss proposed protocols to facilitate the effective re-opening of the tourism sector.
Director of Tourism, Warren Solomon delivered a presentation entitled “The New Look for Montserrat’s Tourism Economy,” which outlined a series of recommended measures for the accommodation, transportation and tour guiding sectors in the COVID-19 era.
“We sought to provide an overview of the state of regional and international tourism in the face of the pandemic, its impact on Montserrat and the path to rejuvenating our tourism economy” commented Solomon. “We also provided some insight into the Tourism Division’s short and medium term plans,” he added.
According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), some 100 million – 120 million jobs worldwide are at risk, and with 850 million to 1.1 billion less international tourists – a possible decline of 60% – 80% – it estimates that between US$910 billion to US$1.2 trillion in tourism receipts could be lost in 2020. By comparison, during the global recession of 2008 international tourist arrivals declined by only 4% and the SARS outbreak in 2003 resulted in a decline of a mere 0.4%.
Since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a public health emergency in January of this year, the Caribbean experienced a first quarter decline of 15.4% in stayover arrivals and a 19% decline in cruise passengers. Comparatively, stayover arrivals for Montserrat declined by 12.12%, while cruise visitors declined by 20%. The declines both regionally and here at home would be even more dramatic for the remainder of the year, with all but two islands closing their borders in March.
The Tourism Division suggested that the path to re-opening the tourism sector needed continuous collaboration between the health agencies and border frontier services of Antigua and Montserrat, with a view to ensuring a positive experience for travelers, as well as minimizing any pressure on the local health system.
The Division also shared with stakeholders recommended operating protocols developed by the OECS and endorsed by regional partners – such as the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) – as well as Airbnb and other international agencies. In response, stakeholders focused mainly on product development issues and the management of health protocols and border services.
Looking to the short and medium terms, the Tourism Division highlighted some of its plans, namely:
• Resuming work on its European Union funded projects such as the upgrade to the hiking trail network and beach facilities
• Implementation of the directional and interpretive signage project
• The development of the new tourism website (set to be launched at the end of July)
• Production of a new destination video
• Maintaining and enhancing its social media presence
• Providing media updates to the CTO
• Participating in the CTO Virtual Roadshows for Ireland and the UK in September and
• Tourism industry training to begin later this month
The meeting ended with an address by the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres on the importance of tourism to the global economy.