By Orville Williams
Cruise tourism could return to St John’s in as early as two months, and the many business operators within that sector are being encouraged to vaccinate their staff ahead of welcoming the long-awaited visitors to our shores.
An announcement earlier this month from Crystal Cruises – that their Crystal Symphony vessel will be homeporting in Antigua, starting August – no doubt piqued the interest of the thousands involved in the sector, meaning yesterday’s disclosure from Information Minister Melford Nicholas, will likely have stimulated even greater optimism.
“The Minister of Tourism would have indicated that towards the end of June, he would expect to see a return – on a limited basis though – of the cruise sector. The cruise sector has already indicated that they are only going to be bringing passengers to these shores who have completed a full dosage of vaccines,” Nicholas confirmed.
He also spoke to the level of reciprocity that would be required in this case, where the people involved in the industry will have to provide the cruises with the same safety assurances.
“That is important for us, but it also means on the flipside, that persons who are going to be involved in the trade – including taxi drivers, retail store operators in the Heritage [and] Redcliffe Quay areas and tour operators – similarly, there would be an obligation placed on them to ensure that they can provide safe passage and safe engagement with these arriving visitors.
“We are asked to give these assurances to the cruise industry [and] it will mean that we are going to be required to work along with the leadership of these organizations and the captains of these industries to ensure that they too have a rigorous programme of ensuring both themselves and their staff are effectively vaccinated.
“We want to appeal to them even at this stage, if there are still any gaps, now would be the time for us to be able to do the responsible endeavour.”
The certification given to businesses that comply with Covid-19 protocols will be replicated somewhat for those whose employees are vaccinated. Nicholas added that the Health Ministry has already been tapped to produce this certification, that will be used to give the visitors some semblance of peace of mind.
“We did discuss this matter further and ask that the Ministry of Health begin to develop a certification of businesses who have completed a degree of vaccinations. This is going to be important, that they will be able to bear the seal from the Ministry, to indicate that both themselves and the entire establishment is sufficiently inoculated, to provide for safe engagement. The arrival of the Crystal Symphony vessel in St John’s in a few months will be historic, as it will become the first ship ever to homeport in Antigua.