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 (CMC) – The Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Monday acknowledged that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has taken a “major toll” on the sector as the region observes Caribbean Tourism Month in November.

“We observe this year’s Caribbean Tourism Month with COVID-19 still affecting travel as the Caribbean and the rest of the world continue to await a vaccine,” said CTO acting Secretary General, Neil Walters said in a statement to mark the occasion.

“The impact on tourism has been immense – a 57 per cent decline in arrivals during the first six months of 2020, an estimated 50 per cent to 60 per cent fall in visitor spend, and tens of thousands of jobs lost. Those still employed have, in several cases, accepted reductions in working hours and wage cuts.”

Caribbean Tourism Month is being observed under the theme “.The Caribbean Awaits” and Walters said that this theme compliments the region’s success in generally containing the spread of COVID-19 “which has taken a major toll on tourism along with other sectors of our economies.

“Caribbean countries have taken the required steps to protect our citizens and residents, conducted the required training to prepare our tourism and related frontline workers for the return of visitors and put the health protocols in place to reassure our potential visitors and residents that we take their health seriously. This has been the groundwork, and now we seek to rebuild the sector.”.

Walters said that the resilience of the Caribbean is shown by the progress made towards the resumption of tourism activity.

He said currently, about 25 Caribbean countries have reopened their borders to commercial travel, either fully or partially, and others are putting the necessary measures in place to welcome visitors.

“This year’s theme further compliments the reopening of our borders, as the clarion call ‘We welcome you’ speaks to the fact that the Caribbean is the perfect place for those who have begun to travel or are thinking of travelling soon, to find solace in a place that is an oasis of health at this time.”

Walters said that the CTO, in conjunction with its members, has planned a number of social media activities in observance of the month.

“We cannot rest on our laurels, and we remain cognizant of the toll that COVID-19 has taken, and continues to take on our economies, and importantly, our people. In all of our destinations, we must remain vigilant and constantly adjust to what is probably one of the most dynamic situations any of us will ever face.

“We hope and pray for recovery; it will be slow, but every step forward is a welcome one. In the meantime, be assured that whatever your travel plans, the Caribbean awaits,” Walters added.

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