On the mark

On the mark

The present global COVID-19 wave has started to affect the just-recovering local tourism economy, as expected. Cancellations of flights by Air Canada and of cruises by Royal Caribbean  may be only the beginning.

On the other hand, load factors on planes coming from the destination’s biggest market, the US, still appear to be good. Americans had already shown earlier that they don’t always heed related official advice such as that for “essential travel only” of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Especially the island’s many frequent visitors are savvy enough to judge the situation on the ground for themselves. Besides, the highly contagious Omicron variant has likely led to a spike in active cases in practically every country and city, including their own.

In addition, the mandatory coronavirus insurance for guests provides the security of avoiding large medical bills should they get infected while here. Even air ambulance evacuations – if needed – are covered.

What could turn out to be a bigger risk to the hospitality industry is carriers lacking personnel due to the pandemic and needing to cancel flights for that reason, as JetBlue did late last week. CDC’s subsequent protocol adjustment from 10 to five days quarantining with no symptoms might provide some relief in terms of available qualified staff.

Most importantly, the by now no doubt predominant new variant’s health consequences generally seem less severe than those of its predecessors. Up to Saturday night St. Maarten Medical Center (SMMC) had seven COVID-19 patients, although one more would mean pushing the night-time closure hour even further back from the current 1:00am to 11:00pm.

The pandemic is nevertheless affecting organisations in both government and the private sector, with some forced to postpone operations and/or stop offering service to clients. Under the circumstances, Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor VSA Omar Ottley’s expressed willingness to consider shortening the isolation period from 10 days to a week is on the mark.