We are now well into the 2021/2022 cruise ship season, this country having so far welcomed 12 ships which have made about 34 calls, mostly in the Grenadines; seven calls have also been made to Port Kingstown. The ships are back after being docked for about 18 months, but things are not the same.
They are coming with less than full capacity and of the passengers on board, many opt not to come ashore for various reasons, including the cost of the COVID-19 test required before being allowed to disembark. Those passengers who do come ashore are restricted to activities that take place within a “bubble”, meaning a controlled environment in which everyone is vaccinated for COVD-19.
These protocols have been devised for the safety of the cruise passengers and residents of St Vincent and the Grenadines, but given the low vaccination rate among Vincentians, the tourist dollar is not reaching as many hands as it did pre-pandemic. The majority of stakeholders are shut out, some because of the choices they have made. Only the shops at the cruise ship berth where staff are fully vaccinated are allowed to open their doors while a cruise ship is in port; the others remain shut and members of the general public are not allowed to enter the terminal area. Most taxi drivers, especially those with smaller vehicles, are completely left out of the picture as visitors are not allowed to explore on their own; our national vaccination rate is too low. The visitors must remain within the “bubble” environment of the land or sea tour they have purchased.
Despite the limited nature of cruise tourism being experienced in the era of COVID-19, we welcome the ships back, while at the same time advocating for more inclusivity of stakeholders. The irony is, no matter how much we advocate, just how involved stakeholders are depends largely on the decisions they make in relation to the COVID-19 vaccine. We live in a global village and while this is good for trade and commerce, quick movement of people around the world also provides easy passage for deadly pathogens. Choices have consequences. We cannot want to participate fully in the tourism industry and at the same time not take every precaution to protect ourselves and the families to which we will return after interacting with visitors. Stakeholders, if they wish to be included, must by their actions, advocate for themselves.