Tips for Making Conscious Choices When Visiting the Caribbean During the Pandemic

From the blog of Impact Travel Alliance

Written by Kelley Louise and Ashley Hubbard | September 2020

Click here for link to blog While the globe as a whole hasn’t seen anything affect the industry as strongly as the pandemic has, the Caribbean is not new to recovering after a crisis. In fact, pre-pandemic, the Caribbean had hit some record highs in tourism in 2019 just shortly after the impact of hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. With a quick reaction to the pandemic – efforts which included closing their cruise ports early – the Caribbean has contained the coronavirus pretty well overall. And, now some islands are reopening their borders to international travelers. But it’s a tricky balancing act when weighing out safety concerns vs. economic benefits, especially in destinations that are so heavily reliant upon tourism dollars. So, what factors need to be taken into account when making the decision whether or not to travel to the Caribbean, and how can we support locals when we do so? The ethics of travel during the pandemic After spending so much of the year in quarantine, we’ll admit that a beach vacation sounds pretty damn good. But just because we can travel, does that mean that we should? We sat down with Lily Lebawit Girma, a travel journalist who has lived in the Caribbean region for 12 years (including Jamaica, Belize and the DR), for an online event designed to arm you with the resources, tools and knowledge to decide whether booking a trip to the Caribbean is right for you, and when.

Respect the community Remember that if you do make the decision to visit the Caribbean during the pandemic, it’s important to keep both your safety in mind as well as the health of the local community. Practice safe social distancing, wear a mask and look up the host destination’s specific regulations around safety protocol. “One thing all travelers must bare in mind is to respect the local community’s fear of catching COVID, and hence to make sure to keep a mask on and maintain social distancing exactly as one does back at home,” explained Anne-Marie Petros, who co-owns Tensing Pen Resort in Jamaica with her husband Sam. “Escaping to the beautiful Caribbean should not be seen as a reason for lesser safety measures than ones does in their home country.” Spend local Since so many destinations in the Caribbean are reliant upon tourism dollars, it’s important that when we visit – pandemic or otherwise – that we take the effort to book and shop in places where tourism dollars support local. See the Caribbean gives a few easy suggestions on their Instagram for spending your dollars locally:

  • Shop from local artisans who make handcrafted items that you can’t find anywhere else
  • Stock up on local in-season fruits at the market for your hotel room
  • Take public transportation (you can even negotiate with taxi drivers for day trips instead of paying foreign-owned tour company)
  • Catch the bus to the nearest small town

Ways to support Caribbean tourism, from home If you decide to stay home, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways that you can’t still support local Caribbean destinations. Support local businesses  Since the Caribbean is so heavily reliant on tourism dollars, finding opportunities to fiscally support local businesses is one of the most impactful things you can do. “If you are not able to visit, consider supporting local ordering online from a locally owned business, buying gift certificates from small, independently owned businesses in the country that you visit,” Malou said. She’s outlined some of her favorite local Bajan brands who all offer online shopping and international shipping on her blog. Petros, from Tensing Penagreed. “If one cannot travel at the current moment for a variety of reasons, there are so many ways to help the small local, community-based efforts working on the ground to improve with the local needs,” she said. “For example, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media show many local entrepreneurs setting up funds for kids going back to school, kids needing medical attention, women needing a stable shelter, and so many more…”

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