Though stating he is pleased a reopening date has finally been announced for tourism, Opposition Leader Marlon Penn has said government’s failure to reveal a plan to accompany that date raises multiple concerns.
The territory will reopen for tourism on December 1. But speaking in a recent interview with BVI News, Penn said: “The lack of a plan and lack of consultation with the stakeholders is very worrying to me because we only have two months to put the necessary protocols in place to make sure our visitors to the territory are safe, and we are safe.”
“We don’t know whether we are going to open to all destinations, if we are going have all ports open – the Beef Island port, the Road Town Ferry Dock, the West End port. We don’t know what the health and safety protocols are; if persons will have to quarantine for 14 days, what is the status if that is the case [or] how will tourists look at coming to the territory to quarantine for 14 days,” Penn further argued.
Tourism stakeholders should’ve been involved
The Opposition Leader also said he believes the relevant stakeholders within the tourism sector should have been involved in the process of determining the December 1 reopening date.
“These are important questions that we need to ask and the stakeholders need to be able to communicate these answers and these protocols to their guests who are potentially coming to the territory and they need to ensure that they are prepared to accept their guests and also to adhere to whatever safety protocols that are in place,” he reasoned.
Missed a golden opportunity
Penn, who is also the Representative of the Eighth District, said the government had more than six months to prepare for a reopening but missed a ‘golden opportunity’ to resume tourism sooner.
Penn said he believes a better time to reopen would have been in September.
“We made a suggestion in the middle of May to do a September opening. And what that does; that would have given us some time to test whatever safety protocols and health protocols because it is a slow period — our slowest period during that time,” he stated.
“Thanksgiving weekend is really where the bulk of persons typically come to the Virgin Islands and it ramps up from there in terms of our busyness. So to put protocols in place that we are going to test and we don’t know what these protocols are during our busiest time of the year is quite a concern,” Penn added.
Time to move quickly
With the date now set, the Opposition legislator said it is time to press ahead with all the necessary measures to ensure a smooth reopening process in December.
“I think we need to move very quickly for whatever those protocols are to ensure that we test them at least within the first month to see how they would work, what changes need to happen [and] how it would be modified to ensure that the businesses are prepared to really implement those protocols and communicate it very clearly to their clientele who have been asking about coming to the territory,” he said.
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