By Theresa Goodwin
Hotels across the island will be making a huge adjustment to their guest policy as of October 1 requiring all guests, 12 years and over to present proof of Covid-19 vaccination in order to stay at their properties.
The Antigua and Barbuda Hotels and Tourism Association (ABHTA) adopted the policy following high level talks with its members and Prime Minister Gaston Browne over the weekend. The association has also placed several other recommendations on the table for consideration.
The Elite Island Resorts, which represents nine properties in Antigua, St Lucia, the Grenadines, Barbados, and Panama, was the first to introduce the measure by informing prospective guests that they will have to show proof of vaccination upon check-in as of September 1.
Elite posted the information on the website of each property pointing out that proof of vaccination means a written CDC vaccination card for the US, NHS vaccination report pass or certificate for UK visitors, official vaccination receipt for Canadians, or similar official medically and governmentally recognised documents.
The local properties that fall under the Elite brand include Galley Bay Resort and Spa, Hammock Cove, St James’s Club and Villas, Pineapple Beach Club and the Verandah resort on Antigua, St James’s Club Morgan Bay St Lucia, the Club Barbados, Palm Island in the Grenadines and Los Establos Boutique Inn in Panama.
Former ABHTA Chairman Alex de Brito said the company made the decision a week ago as the management strongly believes vaccination is the only effective way to control the spread of Covid-19.
“The numbers are very clear that while you can get sick with the vaccine, it minimises the risks of a serious infection.
“We took this decision because we need to make sure that our staff feel safe as we work in an environment where we interact with a lot of tourists on a daily basis and while hospitality is about service, the more our staff feel protected, the better the outcome,” de Brito said.
Another area of concern was the capacity of the country’s healthcare sector to deal with a massive influx of sick patients.
De Brito, who is also 1st Vice President of the ABHTA said the decision taken by Elite sparked a wider discussion on the matter among other hoteliers on the island.
He said the ABHTA board of directors are recommending that this be adopted as national policy; they are also calling for a reduction in the arrival testing window with an effective date of September 1.
This includes shortening the testing window from seven to three days, and vaccinated travellers presenting a negative PCR or Rapid Antigen test upon entry. The body is recommending that the same rule should apply for unvaccinated travellers up until September 30.
ABHTA will also be entering into discussions with the government and representatives of the Union regarding the vaccination of all front-line hospitality workers.
The hotelier said members of the association aware of the perception in the public that the properties are not doing enough to contain the spreads of the virus; however, this is far from the truth.
“The hotels are doing a lot and we have demanded that our staff and guests following all the protocols, including the wearing of masks and other requirements. We also test our guests and staff regularly. The entry of guests is our source of business, but the staff members are our asses,” de Brito said.
Meanwhile, Tourism Minister Charles Fernandez said he is in full support for the position taken by the hotels, indicating a similar policy is being rolled out in most of Antigua’s main source market.
He also said this policy is already in place for arrivals by sea.