PGIA Plan On Pause
Belize's tourism industry will likely not open in July. That July first date had been the hope and expectation from an industry where many large interests are teetering on the verge of collapse - they just can't go anymore without an infusion of tourist traffic, and revenue.
The bad news came today in the Prime Minister's virtual press conference. For weeks he had been announcing that the plan was to open the airport in July 1st, and welcome visitors - on the condition that they can produce a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of their travel.
That had been communicated to the major airlines, but yesterday a message came from the International Air Transport Association saying that just won't work. The Prime Minister explained this morning in the opening remarks at his virtual press conference:
Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
"Yesterday IATA, the International Air Transport Association, sent a message to our Director of Civil Aviation. That message made clear IATA's disapproval of the Belize travel testing requirement. According to IATA, that could not work now, and Belize should wait on the development of a reliable rapid test that would allow for the airlines themselves to administer a pre-boarding test. After that the dominoes started falling. The carriers changed their tune, and it became clear that they would not fly to Belize if we insisted on travelers coming armed with a negative test result. I repeat, though, that our paramount safety concerns mandate our holding firm on that requirement."
"Long story short? I am in consequence of all this today unable to confirm July 1st as a firm reopening date for the PGIA."
"Everything suggests, though, that rapid testing nirvana is imminent. And the moment that happens, we will be good to go. Having not been able to secure July 1st, you will understand that I don't feel comfortable hazarding a guess, an estimate, as to the actual new date."
"But let me take the plunge, there is no way tourism will not be back by November 1st. I personally anticipate that it will restart long before November 1st. By November 1st something has to give, if not, as a country we will have to contemplate the possibility of re-opening even if we don't have the reliable rapid test kits that we are so earnestly hoping for. But take the chance that there can be a return to some degree of Covid-19 once we re-open to the exterior. Take the chance of running that risk or face the inevitability of our almost literally dying, because of the absence of tourism."