As the Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA) and Ministry of Health complete stakeholder training and the GTA Marketing Department maintains “constant contact” with travel agents abroad, some local travel agents are feeling overlooked.
“They talk about hospitality. Well, travel agents are part of it. We refer our clients to hotels, to car rentals, to restaurants. We are also an important medium to distribute information,” one agent, who chose to remain anonymous, told The Grenadian Voice.
“We have heard nothing. We just remain closed,” said another.
Travel agent services are among the few businesses that are not permitted to open under COVID-19 regulations.
The GTA and Ministry of Health have conducted multiple training sessions via the online Zoom platform and workshops at the National Stadium for businesses and individuals employed in the hospitality sector.
Hundreds of local stakeholders, including those in the car rental and transportation sector, have learned about new health and safety protocols, while more than 1000 travel agents abroad have been engaged in webinars that highlight the Spice Isle destination.
Meanwhile, some local travel agents want to be involved and engaged, particularly with the July 07 announcement that Grenada’s borders are now opened to regional countries considered low risk and August 01 to international countries listed as medium risk, such as Canada, the United Kingdom and some European countries.
“I’m home. Now is a good time to send emails to us so we can study the protocols, so we know what we are telling our clients. I am home but my (cell) phone is ringing every day. We are talking about people wanting to come home, we would be sending people out once we are open,” one local agent said.
Another agent said he receives regular emails with the protocols. When asked if travel agents should be involved in the GTA and Ministry of Health initiatives, he answered with a question. “Why would travel agents need training in protocols?”
Ria Murray, GTA communications officer, explained that local travel agents do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Authority in terms of licencing or training. She encouraged all local travel agents to visit the GTA website (puregrenada.com) which includes the protocols and other timely information.
She referred local agents to the Travel Advisory section of the site. There, potential travellers, as well as local travel agents, will find the details and costs associated with travelling to Grenada during a pandemic.
The requirements begin with reading and agreeing to country entry requirements and related costs for quarantine and testing. Persons must download, complete and sign a Health Declaration Form which can be found at https://covid19.gov.gd; and download and register on Grenada’s Contact Tracing App at https://covid19.gov.gd. Visitors must keep the App on their phone for the duration of their stay. Failure to comply will result in a fine of $1,000(EC) or $370(US).
Passengers traveling from medium and high-risk countries must present a certified copy of a negative COVID-19 PCR test result. The requirements become more stringent, depending on where a visitor originated. The site also notes “that travel entry arrangements may vary from time to time as they are under constant review.”
The fact that local agents do not fall under the jurisdiction should not prevent them from taking part in training and be the recipients of regular updates on protocols, according to one agent who feels isolated and frustrated.
The July 07 announcement also revealed that Government has engaged Caribbean International Trade Inc to manage logistics, including verification of health and testing requirements, and quarantine accommodations. Describing itself as a “Caribbean based GPS monitoring service provider and global trading partner,” the company is “committed to assisting our clients through the quarantine process with ease, reliability and professionalism.”
A visit to that company’s website shows a stated goal “to make the quarantine process simple and seamless.” Before proceeding to register, visitors to the site are advised that a “fee of EC $350.00/US $129.00 (EC $25.00/US $9.50 per day) MUST be paid prior to travel. NOTE: If you have pre-paid and quarantine period is less than 14 days or your travel arrangements have changed we will refund accordingly.”
All these requirements have local travel agents wondering how some of their clients will cope.
“Nobody wants clients to come here and not know what to do. We have many elderly clients who do not know about online and registering. We are the medium for many people and we should be engaged. That involves more than visiting websites,” said the agent.