On lockdown with the Three Cs
Sun, sea and sand. Words synonymous with life in the Atlantic/Caribbean region and her people.
Waking up daily being able to absorb vitamin D from the sun, frolicking in our crystal-clear waters and walking on sands of various textures and hues, have been a part of our lives since the day we were born.
We have been born into what the world knows as “natural paradises”.
So much so that our region has, over the past 30 years, become one of the most travelled spots on the globe. Millions of millions of tourists from around the world visiting via cruise ships or airlines.
So successful have we become that we have built our individual and collective economies around those precious visitors.
Those whose foreparents once toiled under the sun, for pittance of pay, were able to transition into taxi drivers, hotel staff, hotel owners, hospitality specialists, rental car owners, tour bus drivers and a host of other supporting industries.
Year after year, our numbers grew; in some places, the numbers grew beyond our capacity, but grow they did.
The Caribbean Journal wrote: “Caribbean tourism is booming so far in 2019, according to new data from the Barbadian-based Caribbean Tourism Organisation.
“Air arrivals to the wider region were up by 12 per cent in the first quarter of 2019, the region's highest growth rate at that point in the calendar in years.”
Well that was right up until the spring of 2020,
The words “Sun”, “Sea” and “Sand” have now been replaced.
The Three Cs
“Corona”, “Covid” and “Curfew” are the new words that dominate our daily lives.
Not only dominating our daily lives, those Three Cs have decimated our Caribbean tourism industry.
Commencing with the closing of both air and sea borders, then progressing to the closing of Airbnbs, hotels, bars, restaurants, then eventually morphing into island-wide lockdowns, the lives and economies in our natural paradises have been changed for ever.
Across the region, millions have been laid off with no known date of going back to work.
Tour buses and taxis in islands such as Anguilla, Cayman Brac, Montserrat and Tortola now sit empty and idle in their owners' yards.
Once-bustling restaurants such as Peppers in Grand Cayman, Lobster Pot in Bermuda, Pussers in Tortola now are vacant.
The LF Wade International Airport in Bermuda, the Owen Roberts International Airport in Grand Cayman and the Terrance B. Lettsome International Airport in the Virgin Islands, now only service cargo or Medivac flights.
Almost overnight, the economic life that we have become accustomed to has rapidly changed.
The new norms
Forty million Caribbean residents are now faced with the following stark realities:
• Loss of income
• Significant drops income
• Unpaid rents
• Unpaid mortgages
• Less money for groceries
• Depleted savings accounts
• Deferred retirement plans
• Closure of small businesses
• Massive loss of government revenue
The list of negative economic realities is limitless, with each of the 40 million having a sad story.
Yet, through it all, over the past five centuries, we as Caribbean people have weathered slavery, classism, racism and hundreds of hurricanes. Now, as then, we will do what we do best: improvise, adapt and overcome.
In the next column, we will discuss ways in which the governments and peoples of the Caribbean region and the Overseas Territories, in particular, are coping in overcoming the Three Cs.
Until that time, my people, stay safe, stay united and #stayathome.
• Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him at WhatsApp on 599-0901 or e-mail at email@example.com