Editor’s thoughts, Part I and II
Part 1: It looks like the DR will not reopen to tourism on 1 July
On its website, the Ministry of Tourism says that the tourism sector is readying the safety protocols for hotels, restaurants, excursions, theme park operation, ranches, maritime transport and aquatic activities. The Institute of Civil Aviation has prepared the protocol for the restart of airports and commercial aviation.
As part of the phased reopening plan, the tourism industry is scheduled to reopen on 1 July 2020. Nevertheless, one week before the opening, the government still has not published the protocols and the airports and airlines have not yet been notified of the opening. The government still maintains the opening as a possibility, but necessary steps to make it a reality are not being taken.
Instead, the Ministry of Public Health has made the use of face masks mandatory in public spaces and workspaces, with penalties of one to 10 minimum wages (RD$10,000 to RD$100,000) now ordered by the government. The Ministry issued the mandate after people have been seen in parks without masks. Likewise, the High Commission for the Prevention of Coronavirus is not recommending the country move to Phase 3 of the reopening, which calls for large industries to be able to operate with up to 100 of their staff and for churches to be able to hold masses three times a week. The High Commission says people would get the wrong impression that matters are back to normal.
Abroad, the reality is that New York is just recovering from being the epicenter of the disease in the USA. Florida is becoming the epicenter; Florida may have to backtrack its reopening. Latin America is slumped big time in Covid-19. The Dominican Republic’s top tourism markets are on the list of countries hit hard by the Covid-19. Despite the pent-up demand for travel, people will think twice about getting on a long-haul flight to get here. So that checks off recovering countries in Europe. Now with the cases returning in Germany…
The reopening of airports as scheduled on 1 July would be in time for the 5 July presidential and congressional election. The problem here is the election is less than two weeks away. This means that despite the real health issues, a lot of decisions seem to be highly politicized.
There are times when a leader should wait and let others test these unchartered waters of tourism in Covid-19 times. What is important is to do things right. What’s such a bummer is the lack of communication and coordination between public and private sectors despite all that is at stake.
Part II: Upsurge in cases in US could delay travel plans
The number of reported Covid-19 cases continues to increase in the United States. Epidemiologists point to the lack of penetration of the message of not gathering in groups for long times, keeping physical distance, wearing face masks, and frequently washing hands.
Florida and Texas are seeing upsurges in cases. Many say the summer activities when thousands have agglomerated spread the disease. The effects of the large protests after the murder of George Floyd are also yet to be seen. The media is reporting on a beautiful summer day for beach going in Florida and on the reopening of the Universal theme park. Meanwhile, New York continues on the path to stabilize the number of cases.
What happens in the United States dictates what happens in the Dominican Republic. When the United States opens its airports and aviation to resume normal schedule depends on controlling the disease. How this will go is yet to be seen.
Disney World Florida is playing it safely. Universal has reopened, not so Disney. As I wrote some weeks ago, we need to follow Disney. Disney will tell us when to fully reopen. Disney is seeing advantages in following instead of leading in the state’s reawakening efforts. Disney is the only theme park operator to not open, and has announced it will not do so until 11 July, half and the other half by 17 July.
Now if only this all could be done by phases. First clear the industry for domestic travel. And then phase it in allowing legal residents, property owners and family travel. To travel here you would have to be a Dominican or a foreign resident. That would be a way of gradually phasing in the tourism industry. Let the hotels open to domestic travel and the country can practice tourism in Covid-19 times in July. Wishful thinking….
Ministry of Tourism
23 June 2020