Will sea, sand and social distancing make the Caribbean appealing?

The Caribbean is the world’s most tourist-dependent region. (Shutterstock)
Short Url
Updated 04 June 2020

Will sea, sand and social distancing make the Caribbean appealing?

  • Officials want the new tourism guidelines to reassure travelers, without being off-putting

KINGSTON: A cluster of Caribbean islands are reopening this month for tourism, hoping to burnish their reputations as oases of tranquility after containing their COVID-19 outbreaks and implementing strict public health protocols.

The Caribbean, known for its palm-fringed beaches, turquoise water and colonial towns, is the most tourism-dependent region in the world. 

Antigua and Barbuda, the US Virgin Islands and St. Lucia are the first to reopen this week. Jamaica and Aruba are set to follow later in the month, with July target dates for the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic.

While other tourist hotspots such as Greece aim to limit arrivals from countries with high infection rates, the first flights the Caribbean is receiving are from the United States, which has the world’s highest number of reported cases.

But local tourism officials say they have little choice. Americans accounted for almost half the Caribbean’s 31.5 million visitors last year.

“What are we going to wait for? A vaccine? Shut down the country for two years?” Antigua and Barbuda’s Tourism Minister Charles Fernandez asked.

Instead, those islands reopening will conduct health screening, including temperature checks upon arrival, and require or encourage the use of face masks in public spaces.

They are divided over whether to test — as recommended by the Caribbean Public Health Agency — because of cost, reliability and availability concerns. Without testing, asymptomatic visitors could be a risk.

Antigua and Barbuda will do a rapid coronavirus test of visitors upon arrival, said Fernandez. 

St. Lucia Prime Minister Allen Chastanet said it would require a certificate for a negative coronavirus test conducted up to 48 hours before departure.

It remains unclear if this would work, given tests are not widely available on demand in the US.

Concerns remain over reopenings in countries that do not require testing of arrivals, such as Jamaica.

“People should object, as should anyone who has done what they have done to flatten the curve of new cases,” said civil rights advocate Carol Narcisse, noting Jamaica has warned of a likely new rise in cases.

“Whose interest is the government really serving here?“

The coronavirus era has uprooted Caribbean carnival celebrations, nights out clubbing and resort buffets.

Still, the tourism industry hopes the mere appeal of sun, sea and the outdoors will suffice.

“Post-coronavirus, people want to get outside,” said Marc Melville, the head of Jamaica-based Chukka Tours.

Caribbean nations, which were quick to shut their borders and impose strict lockdowns as the pandemic spread, hope to market themselves as safe destinations. Antigua and Barbuda and the US Virgin Islands have respectively just one and two reported cases, officials said. St. Lucia has none.

Officials want the new tourism guidelines to reassure travelers, without being off-putting. Measures include sanitizing surfaces and social distancing in hotels, restaurants, tour operators and taxis.

Islands such as St. Lucia will pace their reopenings, keeping tourist sites closed in a first phase and allowing seated restaurant service only at resorts.

On his blog “One Mile at a Time,” travel writer Ben Schlappig wrote St. Lucia’s plan would make him feel safe: “The question becomes whether a visit would be any fun with all of these restrictions.”


Oil giants’ production cuts come to 1m bpd as they post massive write-downs

Updated 39 min 31 sec ago

Oil giants’ production cuts come to 1m bpd as they post massive write-downs

  • Crude output worldwide dropped sharply after the market crashed in April

LONDON: The world’s five largest oil companies collectively cut the value of their assets by nearly $50 billion in the second quarter, and slashed production rates as the coronavirus pandemic caused a drastic fall in fuel prices and demand.

The dramatic reductions in asset valuations and decline in output show the depth of the pain in the second quarter. Fuel demand at one point was down by more than 30 percent worldwide.

Several executives said they took massive write-downs because they expect demand to remain impaired for several more quarters as people travel less and use less fuel due to the ongoing global pandemic.

Of those five companies, only Exxon Mobil did not book sizeable impairments. But an ongoing reevaluation of its plans could lead to a “significant portion” of its assets being impaired, it reported, and signal the elimination of 20 percent or 4.4 billion barrels of its oil and gas reserves.

By contrast, BP took a $17 billion hit. It said it plans to recenter its spending in coming years around renewables and less on oil and natural gas.

Weak demand means oil producers must revisit business plans, said Lee Maginniss, managing director at consultants Alarez & Marsal. He said the goal should be to pump only what generates cash in excess of overhead costs.

“It’s low-cost production mode through the end of 2021 for sure, and to 2022 to the extent there are new development plans being contemplated,” Maginniss said.

London-based BP has previously said it plans to cut its overall output by roughly 1 million barrels of oil equivalent (BOEPD) by the end of 2030 from its current 3.6 million BOEPD.

Of the five, Exxon is the largest producer, with daily output of 3.64 million BOEPD, but its production dropped 408,000 BOEPD between the first and second quarters. The five majors, which include Chevron Corp, Royal Dutch Shell and Total SA, also cut capital expenditures by a combined $25 billion between the quarters.

Crude output worldwide dropped sharply after the market crashed in April. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to cut output by nearly 10 million barrels a day to balance out supply and demand in the market.