While Prime Minister Gaston Browne has predicted a rebound in the tourism sector in the next three months, developments in the United Kingdom are likely to delay that resurgence.
Yesterday, March 22, the Government of the United Kingdom announced that, effective March 29, travellers to any destination beyond Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, would face a fine of 5,000 Pounds.
The ban is aimed at protecting the British population against the “third wave” of COVID-19 – identified as the South African variant –
now sweeping across neighbouring Europe.
There are exemptions, of course, for work, study, and legal and medical appointments, but the ban on leisure travel is likely to be in place until the end of May, media reports out of the UK say.
And for those allowed to travel out, the quarantine requirement could possibly be in effect until at least August.
The United Kingdom is Antigua & Barbuda’s second-largest tourist market. But by the time the UK clears the way for foreign travel, the country will be well into its third quarter.
Adding to the tourism sector’s likely woes is the fact that Europe’s vaccination campaign has not gone as well as expected. The rollout in several countries – including hard-hit Italy and even Germany – has been slowed by adverse reports on the AstraZeneca vaccine, with several nations putting their campaigns on pause.
Therefore, local pundits say that the rebound promised by Prime Minister Browne is highly unlikely before 2022 – and even that is dependent on the vaccination campaigns.
Hence, they advise that persons engaged in tourist-sector businesses “temper their expectations and not get carried away” by the Prime Minister’s enthusiasms.
“It’s really not up to him, or to us,” one expert concludes.