Relaxing Covid rules means island can ‘compete on level playing field’ with competitors
Allowing entry to unvaccinated visitors means that the island can “compete on a level playing field” with other destinations, a hotel industry leader said yesterday.
Stephen Todd, the chief executive officer of the Bermuda Hotel Association, said that tourism representatives had lobbied the Government to consider changes that would help to attract guests.
It was announced this week that non-residents who have not had Covid-19 jabs can visit the island from August 22.
Mr Todd said that the BHA was “very pleased” to receive confirmation of the change from the Government, and particularly Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health.
He added: “This comes as very welcome news and it’s something that the Bermuda Hotel Association and the hospitality industry has been seeking for some time because it now allows us to compete on a level playing field with our international travel partners and destinations.”
Mr Todd explained: “The Bermuda Hotel Association is a member of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association and we have been aware for some time that the majority of the Caribbean islands to our south had relaxed their restrictions regarding unvaccinated visitors several months ago.
“We were simply seeking, through lobbying on the part of both the BHA and the Bermuda Tourism Authority, to have our government consider a similar relaxation of travel protocols.”
He said: “The reason we were seeking the relaxation is to permit us to obviously attract a percentage of future visitors to the island who were seeking to come to the island but obviously were not able to.
“This is also going to allow us to retain some small group business – business that we were looking for – because we were at risk of losing that business and future bookings had we not relaxed the restrictions on unvaccinated visitors.”
Mr Todd added: “It’s a boost and we recognise that we still need to maintain a level of safety in terms of ensuring that those unvaccinated visitors meet the testing requirements.”
The Government said this week that, from Monday, non-residents without vaccinations against the coronavirus will have to take a Covid-19 test no more than two days before their planned arrival in Bermuda and also another test on Day 4 of their stay.
Unvaccinated visitors must have valid travel health insurance to enter Bermuda and must upload proof of the policy to their Travel Authorisation application for approval.
Mr Todd said it was thought that the new rules will help visitor numbers this year.
He explained: “Ideally we would have preferred to have seen it a few months ago but better now than never.
“In having it, we can now focus our energies through the sales and marketing initiatives on the part of the BTA as well as the hotels to attract that additional business to our island. So we’re hopeful that it’s going to glean and produce higher visitor numbers especially during the shoulder months that we’re entering into.”
Under regulations in place until next week, visitors aged 12 and over who arrive by air must be fully vaccinated.
Mr Todd said: “Of course, it’s difficult if there’s no specific booking that's been cancelled.
“However, it is our true belief that we would have been overlooked and have been overlooked as a destination because of that.
“The savvy traveller of today is, in fact, very much shopping destinations and they look for the simplicity of convenience and accessibility without having to jump through as many hurdles.
“We believe that the reduction of these restrictions will now help us to attract business that potentially would have been going elsewhere.”
He added: “Our sincere thanks to the Government who are working with us and the BTA to fully open and restore our tourism economy to the economic benefit of everyone.”
The new rules also mean that unvaccinated cruise passengers will need a Covid-19 test no more than two days before departing the port.
A government spokeswoman said: “Depending on the time it takes to travel to Bermuda, they may need to test again before disembarking in Bermuda.
“This is familiar territory for the cruise lines as Bermuda already requires additional testing for vaccinated travellers when the journey to Bermuda is longer than four days.”
Tracy Berkeley, the BTA interim chief executive officer, said yesterday: “The pandemic is not over, but today, Bermuda has the necessary tools and processes in place to protect ourselves and our communities.
“Our updated travel protocols will streamline the process for visiting our island, further boosting Bermuda’s tourism comeback in 2022.”
An e-mail sent by the BTA said: “Following the recent announcement of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention loosening its health guidelines, the Bermuda Government has updated its Covid-19 protocols.”
It added: “According to the CDC, ‘Covid-19 continues to circulate globally, however, with so many tools available to us for reducing Covid-19 severity, there is significantly less risk of severe illness, hospitalisation and death compared to earlier in the pandemic.”