Pacific region may not be ready for border opening

SPTO says whole Pacifi c region may not be ready for the borders to open yet and allow for tourists to travel as some Pacifi c island countries are yet to prepare for COVID clean business recovery programs. Picture: SUPPLIED

THE whole Pacific region may not be ready for the borders to open yet and allow for tourists to travel as some Pacific island countries are yet to prepare for COVID clean business recovery programs.

This was one of the key issues highlighted by the Pacific Tourism Organisation CEO Christopher Cocker.

He added Fiji was well advanced and far ahead in being prepared but those countries which did not rely on tourism still had a long way to go.

“Out of all our 20 Pacific countries only four are running a program like that, so the rest of the 16 haven’t started anything,” he said.

“This is very important because if they don’t run that program to ensure that their properties are COVID clean businesses then it will not provide the confidence for guests who are visiting.”

Mr Cocker said the another issue was businesses in the tourism sector were trying to keep afloat as there were a lot of reports of them closing down.

“They need support which will come from their national governments in this case, providing some sort of support to them to sort of keep them going.”

He said there would not be any tourism business left open once the borders opened if no support was provided.

“The other area we are looking at is how many business is closing down and how many people were employed in the countries and that’s the area we are trying to collect in this case.”

Mr Cocker added a lot the large businesses in particular, larger hotel chains had budgeted for another year of borders being closed with no tourism activity.

“It’s actually the SMEs in this case — they were thinking that the best scenario would be the beginning of this year first and second quarter would open but what is going to happen is because I think the source markets would want all our countries in the Pacific to be vaccinated and safer for them and safer for us.

“And of course we all know that the new norm for travel would be for anyone that travels needs to be vaccinated, it’s no longer that COVID tests and etc.

“One of the requests that has come back from our member countries each country has its priorities, the frontline workers.

“If possible for the tourism frontline employees would also be part of the priority particularly for the reopening and we leave that to each individual country in this case.”

The tourism destinations were far advanced and geared to reopening according to Mr Cocker and a good example was Fiji.

“They are way ahead in terms of their clean business program, Fiji is way advanced.”

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