The Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association (DHTA) expresses concern over a recent decision to reevaluate the Safe in Nature Programme (SiN).
Since its launch in August 2020, the SiN progamme has provided a safe avenue for the relaunching of tourism in Dominica during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tourism Service Providers (TSPs) implemented a number of stringent protocols and were able to host hundreds of guests. Currently, there is no community spread of COVID-19 in Dominica, a sure indication that the Safe in Nature programme has been highly successful.
To participate in the programme, properties incurred tremendous expense and stress to implement safety and hygiene protocols, train and monitor staff and adapt to frequently changing rules in order to keep their businesses viable during the pandemic. Properties were able to remain open, employ limited staff, and offer Safe in Nature guests a Nature Island experience.
Throughout the period, the DHTA ensured that all properties received support to operate in the current environment and comply with health safety protocols. The DHTA is confident, therefore, that, all efforts were made to keep the island safe. The DHTA agrees that any breach must and should be dealt with appropriately by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Tourism. However, the closure of a vast majority of SiN properties without consultation is unacceptable.
The DHTA is well aware of the rapid spread of new highly contagious variants. These new variants, which have caused a rise in cases across the globe, are managed by masks, proper hand hygiene, and social distancing; practices that Dominica has embraced with much success. The DHTA is further heartened by the fact that vaccination of citizens is ongoing which positions Dominica to receive more visitors in a safe environment soon.
The closure of properties will have dire consequences for accommodations including:
- Increase in unemployment in the tourism sector; increase in poverty and burden on government
- Closure of properties leading to increased delinquency at banks
- The inability of the sector to recover after COVID
- Reduction in GDP, VAT, other taxes, and foreign exchange earnings for years to come
The DHTA proposes a meeting with the relevant groups to address the potentially devastating impact of the closure of the SiN program on the industry and on the already fragile economy. The meeting has as its objectives to:
- ensure that the Tourism Sector is represented – and considered – in the discussions when Health decisions directly affect the private sector.
- obtain a clear definition of the problems being experienced by the MOH, MOT, and the Tourism Service Providers with regards to protocols, monitoring, PCR testing, and communication or dissemination of information.
- determine how the MOT and DHTA can assist in the process of monitoring and logistics for PCR testing.
- review the recommendations made by the Monitoring and Border Committees and the recommendations that will be jointly submitted by DHTA members.
- focus only on recommendations directly related to COVID or to national health safety.
- develop and communicate procedures addressing how breaches are to be handled.
- jointly create SMART, enforceable recommendations and actions that will meet the objectives of national COVID safety, hold stakeholders accountable and safely relaunch tourism.
The DHTA remains committed to a successful partnership with the Ministries of Health and Tourism to constantly improve the already successful SIN program.