Wherever there are tourists, there will always be a few who annoy the locals. Drunken and brawling teenagers in party destinations, tourists littering or trying to bring home parts of treasured monuments. However, their actions seldom involved such a significant health risk as ignoring COVID protocols.
Even as COVID cases rise again in a third wave, tourists breaking the rules is a factor leading to backlash against international travelers in many destinations. The increase in the number of high-profile cases may be due to the increase in travel around traditional holiday periods such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The Caribbean has been particularly hard hit, with Barbados paying the price. Until the end of 2020, Barbados recorded a small number of COVID-19 cases, mostly from international visitors who tested positive in a second test during quarantine. From December 29 to January 11, Barbados recorded 519 new cases. It might seem like a small number, but it’s out of a total of 968 over ten months. The current outbreak appears to be linked to a prison and a “bus tour,” a social pub crawl that many call a super-spreader event. What is not known, and may never be known, is who patient zero was. It probably would have been an international arrival on the island, given the lack of widespread community in Barbados until recently. It also may not be known if the Zero Broken Patient protocols are known. It’s entirely possible that patient zero tested negative on their second test but was, in fact, infected. Barbados has already seen 10 broken quarantine cases, with several high-profile cases involving tourists.
The most infamous was the former beauty queen and British reality TV star Zara Holland who starred in “Love Island”. When her boyfriend tested positive for COVID on his second test, the couple decided to take a break for the airport. The hotel found the cut quarantine bracelets and alerted authorities. Both have received substantial fines in the courts of Barbados. Other cases include a Jamaican man who was jailed for purchasing a quarantined can of soft drink and another couple who attempted to bring a woman into their hotel for a threesome.
This has naturally led to Barbadians’ anger at tourism, with some believing the borders should be closed completely. On social media groups aimed at locals and visitors sharing information, tensions are high. Some people definitely feel that tourists are doing more than harm to the island. Sadly, tourism is crucial for Barbados, with around 10% of its workforce employed in the travel industry, so it’s not something the country can easily lose without significant repercussions. Barbados has stepped up its quarantine protocols in recent weeks, with all quarantined customers confined to their hotel rooms and the second test being carried out five days after the first instead of four.
In the Cayman Islands, they take a more robust approach towards visitors who break the rules. An American student has been jailed for four months in the Cayman Islands after breaking quarantine regulations for watching her boyfriend compete in a jet ski competition. Although she was tested before and after arriving in Grand Cayman, she had to self-isolate for 14 days with a tracking device. The traveler, who was allowed to visit her partner on the island, decided to remove her tracking device to attend her ski competition. After appeals for clemency, his sentence was reduced from four months to two months.
Hawaii has also seen a similar tourist reaction after a number of tourists were caught breaking quarantine. A woman from San Francisco has been arrested in Maui for allegedly violating Hawaii quarantine rules. The woman posted photos from several beaches to social media with the caption: “My second day here, a full rainbow and a Hawaiian green turtle on the beach.” Travelers must remain in quarantine for 14 days upon arrival or test negative for COVID-19. Police allege that she also failed to complete the Safe Travel Application and check in at the accommodation she listed as her quarantine accommodation.
This incident is one of many issues that visitors to Hawaii have faced during the pandemic since it began welcoming visitors from the Americas in October. With its unemployment rate among the highest in the United States, at over 10% in November, we can expect locals to welcome travelers again with open arms. However, a recent Resident Sentiment survey on behalf of the Hawaii Tourism Authority of 1,709 residents from all islands found that 65% of Hawaiians don’t want people from outside the state to visit the islands. .
With many tourist attractions already having been overwhelmed by visitors, locals are getting used to the peace and quiet. Venice’s Grand Canal, usually filled with cloudy and foul-smelling water in summer, completely disappeared in the first months of the pandemic. Today, many countries are starting to reassess mass tourism and look for more sustainable ways to contribute to their economies. One of the most popular ways is to attract high value, longer-stay travelers rather than passing visitors like those on cruise ships. Thailand has relaunched its tourism program with the Special Long Stay Tourist Visa and many others like Bermuda, Barbados and Dubai, offering long stay visas for remote workers. Thailand has one of the highest tourism revenue losses in the world with a loss of US $ 37,504 million. The Caribbean also accounts for around 50% of the listed countries that lost the highest percentages of GDP due to lack of travelers.
The coronavirus pandemic has definitely given tourism leaders a chance to think about how they want to rebuild tourism. With many locals also keen on a change, it seems inevitable that travel will never be the same again. This is not necessarily a bad thing.