by Bria King
The first cruise vessel arrived in Bequia on Saturday, marking the beginning of what many hope will be a successful cruise season, after nearly two years of a dry spell in the tourism industry.
And while some Bequia vendors and residents are encouraged by the arrival of the Seabourn Odyssey to these shores, others believe that the bubble approach on a whole will only benefit a select few.
The vessel anchored off the northern Grenadines Island on August 7, and shuttled passengers to the beach outside the Bequia Plantation Hotel, which was considered to be a part of the bubble.
Under the COVID19 protocols established, tourists were only allowed to stay within the bubble, and only vaccinated persons were allowed to interact with the passengers.
“I’m hoping for good things because…I think most of the tourists will be headed for the Caribbean. I think things will come back as better,” Daphne Child, one Bequia vendor told SEARCHLIGHT on Saturday.
Child, who has been a vendor for the past 40 years, sells T-shirts – some of which she tie dyed herself, tropical shirts and dresses, and locally crafted jewellery.
It was her first day back at the market spot designated at Port Elizabeth for vendors like herself, and she is hoping to be there more regularly in coming weeks.
“I pray that when all the ladies come back and we get together…things will go well for all of us because we depend on tourism. Everybody in the tourism sector, they’re feeling it. It’s hard,” Child said.
The vendor noted that she was not vaccinated but intends to get the jab soon.
She said from what she understands, persons who are vaccinated will be allowed in the bubble, meaning that she will be able to go to the Plantation Hotel and sell her items to tourists, once she is vaccinated.
The bubble spanned the entire beach at the hotel, which was guarded by two members of the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force.
As a result no one was allowed access to the beach at the Bequia Plantation Hotel on that day.
SEARCHLIGHT understands that the bubble continued along the boardwalk, which leads to Princess Margaret Beach, where there was a cut-off point that could not be crossed either by tourists or locals.
A coastguard vessel was also present in the waters.
Craftsman, Kareem Doyle told SEARCHLIGHT that he has not taken the COVID19 vaccine and has no intentions of doing so because he does not believe that not being a part of the tourism bubble will make any difference to his business at this time.
“The bubble, as far as I see, is about the tourist boat industry. That doesn’t affect me much because as I say, they only come and spend a minimum. Now, they say the people on the yachts, they have to be quarantined before they can actually come in. Those are the people that actually spend money. One or two times, you might find someone on a tourist boat who might be willing to spend some money on some art and crafts,” he said.
Doyle noted that he was not currently operating his stall as there has been no sale in recent times, which has pushed him to find other employment opportunities.
He said the tourist season has not been going well, but he will wait to see what happens.
The owner of a local business noted that while quite a few persons have been vaccinated, they are unsure how the bubble works or have not been included in the bubble.
The business owner, who operates a recreational water activity company, said tourists usually contact them individually to book the services offered.
Usually, the company would attract at least five persons per week from cruise ships.
But the fully vaccinated Bequia resident said “if someone from this cruise ship had contacted me, I’d have had to say no because we’re not included in the bubble”.
The business owner also noted that they have sent numerous letters to the Ministry of Tourism but have yet to receive a response.
She also believes that there is a lack of communication as not much information has been circulated to residents on how the bubble will work, particularly as it relates to places to which residents will not have access .
An employee at another local establishment also felt like there was some bias when crafting the bubble concept.
She told SEARCHLIGHT many people got vaccinated in the hopes of welcoming tourists to the various establishments on Bequia, only to discover that cruise passengers would be confined to the beach at the Plantation Hotel.
She believes this to be unfair, as only one establishment will benefit. The employee thinks that a better concept can be crafted to include more businesses on the island.
Tourism minister Carlos James was present on Saturday to greet passengers from the first cruise ship of the season.
In a video posted on social media, James is seen standing with the captain of the vessel as a group of passengers make their way to the hotel.
Also in the video, one member of the Seabourn Odyssey crew said he was impressed with the security put in place for the occasion.
James said it was a model which authorities intend to make “even tighter but more accommodating as well”.