This week, I had the opportunity to speak and present on the reopening of tourism in the Caribbean region for Impact Travel Alliance (ITA) – where I am now part of the global team as Senior Strategist.
The burning question lately is: just because much of the Caribbean region has reopened to the world and you can travel for that beach break, should you?
With US travelers being unwelcome in much of the world at the moment due to the uncontrolled pandemic in the USA – the Caribbean is one of the few places open for an escape, primarily because the Caribbean is hugely depending on tourism income. But just because you can go, should you?
You may not be traveling, but there are definitely those who are choosing to visit the Caribbean at this time. It’s worrisome for my favorite region, which has to balance the public health but also keep the economies going and get people back to work. So the best solution is to arm travelers with the right advice.
What factors do you need to take into consideration if you’re thinking of a trip to the Caribbean this summer and in the upcoming months? My colleague David from ITA, who hails from St. Lucia, and my 15-years of Caribbean travel and living experiences all distilled into 50 minutes of expert advice on the do’s and don’ts, and the not-so-black and white aspects of this debate.
We also launched the webinar with my presentation on what sustainable tourism looked like in the Caribbean pre-pandemic, what your options were as a sustainable tourist, and how we can all play a part in being a more conscious Caribbean visitor in the future. I even mention my newly launched initiative, See the Caribbean (I didn’t yet post about it on this blog, my bad, but there you go – please join the movement).
Here’s a summary of the webinar with my essential tips:
1. Take a holistic look at the destination and its people beyond COVID numbers: what’s the situation on the ground, and how do locals feel? Educate yourself on geography of destinations – some are big islands with larger populations – and read the major local outlets or ask your trusted sources in the region.
2. Some destinations should be totally off your list: Puerto Rico (which closed again recently anyway). Keep in mind 13 or 30 small island “developing” states in the world are in the Caribbean.
3. Consult the CHTA’s updated list of open destinations and their specific protocols pre-departure.
4. Get pretested before you leave as close as possible to your departure date (I know, it’s not foolproof).
5. Educate yourself on the health care system of the destination you are interested in.
6. Keep to yourself at all times; do not mingle with locals yet.
7. Respect the protocols and public health safety requirements in the destination (masks, distancing, pretesting, hotel and beach distancing).
8. This may not be the fully sustainable trip you are used to; do not go into the communities; majority of residents don’t have the means to be airlifted out to US hospitals as you do; but you may be able to order local food for delivery/pick up from your car and stay in a small locally-owned hotel that isn’t smack in a community but in a tourist area.
9. Know your travel insurance and home insurance coverage (does it include evacuation? Make sure it does).
10. Take your own supplies with you and take back your empty containers with you; pack biodegradable utensils if you can and your own bamboo/metal straws.
11. It’s hurricane season which usually means more rainy days (major storm likelihood is usually low, but – climate change).
12. Treat the Caribbean as you would treat your home – from my colleague David, which I fully agree with as someone who has lived here for 12 years; as I have said recently and in the past, the Caribbean is not a commodity.
13. Support from home by donating to local community or environmental organizations; learn how to become a more conscious impact traveler to the Caribbean away from all inclusive resorts; share Caribbean stories online – of tour guides or businesses you loved for example; leave positive reviews and boost each other’s morales across the seas.
14. Don’t judge those who might have no other choice but to get back on their resort job, with precautions, nor those who choose to support them responsibly.
Please feel free to share this post and these tips with your contacts, friends and family. Solid, expert advice is very much needed at this time.
Impact Travel Alliance will also have a follow up blog post sharing useful resources – I’ll share that link here when it’s available.
Happy weekend all – stay safe, wherever you are.