New travel restrictions across Latin America and the Caribbean threaten economic recovery
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Latin American and Caribbean Air Transport Association (ALTA), Airports Council International Latin America and the Caribbean (ACI-LAC) and the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) are jointly expressing their deep concerns about the new measures and restrictions imposed on air travel across Latin America and the Caribbean.
In a joint call to governments they are asking for the implementation and adherence to internationally agreed measures which permit safe air travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rolling back the progress made on restoring air connectivity in 2020 will have an adverse effect on the socio-economic recovery in the region, placing millions of jobs at risk.
2021 began as a promising and hopeful year with vaccination campaigns being started. Health and safety are and will always be the number one priority; therefore, the airline industry has been supporting and advising States in their efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by implementing multilayered biosafety protocols at all stages of travel.
However, measures that had been lifted such as quarantines on top of testing requirements are being re-imposed, in addition to new bans on flights to certain destinations. All of this represents a setback in the recovery efforts in many economic sectors, such as travel and tourism, among others.
“The region’s airports have seen a gradual but sustained recovery since last June, reaching 45% of the total number of passengers carried in November 2019. It has been a joint effort to regain the confidence of passengers and provide safe travel experience. The airports have been very strict in the implementation of sanitary protocols. In addition, the application of tests instead of quarantines has proven to be a highly effective alternative, generating confidence in travelers and contributing to the revival of travel and tourism. With the arrival of the summer months in the Southern Hemisphere we expected a more accelerated recovery; however, the imposition of new measures and restrictions will reduce incentives to travel,” comments Rafael Echevarne, Director General of ACI-LAC.
“Between January and November 2020, the airlines operating in the region carried about 40% of the total passengers transported in that period of 2019. November marked a milestone with close to 16 million passengers in the region (45% of the total for November 2019) thanks to the reactivation of practically all the countries in the region. This shows that there is interest and need for travel, therefore, we cannot return to border closures or re-impose obstacles to passengers.
We reiterate our willingness to work with governments in the implementation of effective and sustainable mechanisms that guarantee the health of passengers and citizens, while we recover connectivity and this important economic sector,” comments José Ricardo Botelho, ALTA’s Executive Director & CEO.
“We again call on governments to implement and follow the internationally agreed biosafety protocols for aviation. We cannot go back to the beginning of the pandemic, closing borders or applying quarantines when even the World Health Organization has pointed out that the virus cannot be controlled in this way. There will always be an element of risk, but there are strategies to mitigate this and as an industry we have necessary protocols in place. That’s why we must learn to live with the virus without putting millions of jobs at risk and crippling the economies that depend on aviation; because there are no alternatives for fast, safe and reliable transportation. Air transport is key to a country’s connectivity, especially when vaccine logistics require efficient transportation links to ensure deliveries,” says Peter Cerdá, IATA Regional Vice President for the Americas.
The industry is also reminding governments of the importance of providing a clear and reliable regulatory framework under which airlines can provide stable operations to passengers, which is an integral part of rebuilding customer confidence. Airlines, airports and suppliers require sufficient advance notice to allow for proper planning of efficient and safe operations. Passengers also plan their trips in advance and changing requirements generates uncertainty and disincentives to travel.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has created a significant challenge for aviation and a major focus right now is coordinating the industry restart. Global recovery has been uneven with some regions seeing declines in volumes in the past few months, while others are experiencing a continued slow recovery of flight numbers. For example, the most significant growth was seen in the Caribbean, where 900 additional daily flights were added between late October and late November 2020. As well as preparing for the restart, organisations across the industry are contending with an unprecedented financial challenge and while I understand the important measures being put in place to protect the public, and as we move into the new normal, we call upon governments to coordinate and support the aviation sector for the duration of this crisis”, expressed Simon Hocquard, Director General CANSO.
According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), in 2020 the global tourism industry went back 30 years, with one billion fewer travelers arriving and approximately US$1.1 billion in lost revenue from international tourism. For its part, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has reported that some six million jobs in the travel and tourism industry and more than US$110 billion in contribution to GDP are at risk in Latin America and the Caribbean alone.
The availability of a vaccine is great news for the population but waiting for mass vaccination to lift restrictions would end up doing more harm. Standardized protocols and pre-testing of passengers will ensure that keeping borders open does not pose a risk of contagion, while the industry continues on the road to recovery.
Aviation and tourism are major drivers of socio-economic development in the region and by working together we will regain the connectivity that generates millions of jobs and well-being for our population.