BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – The St. Kitts-Nevis government on Tuesday said it is hoping to reopen the borders of the twin-island Federation by October, after careful consideration of the health and safety needs of citizens and residents as well as its commitment to restoring the local economy to pre coronavirus (COVID-19) levels.
“An expansive training programme is being spearheaded by the Ministry of Tourism in collaboration with the Ministries of Health and Civil Aviation. It aims to train 5,000 persons in the industry at no cost to participants.
“Given the need to ensure all will benefit and can be certified by the Tourism Authority, the training is being offered free of cost,” Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris told a news conference on Tuesday.
Harris told reporters that his administration was taking decisions based on the extensive dialogue with relevant stakeholders, including the National Emergency Operations Center, health experts and the business community represented by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce.
He said upon the successful completion of the COVID-19 sensitization sessions, participants will be presented with the St. Kitts and Nevis Travel Approved Seal that will identify entities and operators within the tourism industry who have undergone the required training to meet the minimum health and safety COVID-19 protocols.
Stakeholders within the tourism sector who do not receive the approved seal will not be permitted to operate in the new environment,” Harris said, adding that the major hotels here are committed to continue doing business in the destination and airlines are showing high interest in bringing passengers to the Federation.
“Marriott is still committed to St. Kitts and Nevis. A new general manager has arrived on island recently and I gather that she will be the one to guide the operations forward. KOI has advised that it has been in touch with Hilton and will reopen in the last quarter of 2020. Park Hyatt is expected to open fully in October 2020 providing work to its 180 employees.
“I am pleased however to learn that its Fisherman’s Village Restaurant is already open for business. The Royal St. Kitts Hotel is functioning albeit in a reduced capacity,” Harris added.
He said together with the Labour Minister Wendy Phipps, a meeting with will be held on Wednesday with the management of Four Seasons Resort on Nevis.
Harris told reporters that “generally, the business confidence remains good” and that “this is due largely to our excellent management of the economy prior to COVID-19 which saved lives and kept our citizens and residents safe”.
Prime Minister Harris said that foreign investors were showing good interest in doing more business here and that his administration is “encouraging them to do so.”
The government said that during the seven months of this year, the number of business licences reached its highest level with 463 approvals, compared to 414 over the comparative period in 2019.
“This achievement is commendable given the dramatic fall in applications for businesses experienced in April 2020 directly attributable to the uncertainty and unpredictability brought on by COVID-19,” Harris said, while noting that July has been the best month with 101 approvals granted.
Harris said he was also pleased that several persons were now taking advantage of the opportunities available to them to generate income despite the COVID-19.
“We see entities diversify into mask making and producing hand sanitizers right here in our islands. We saw innovation in entertainment at the lawns of Frigate Bay with drive-in movies now available on weekends. We commend the creativity and ingenuity of our people.
“We encourage those displaced as a result of COVID-19 to think through how they can apply their skills to new opportunities for self-employment. New providers of PCR testing are likely to emerge. This is important as we open our borders there will be increasing demand for COVID-19 tests. The delivery of quality lab services will help the efficiency and effectiveness of our response for tests as more visitors enter our beautiful Country,” Prime Minister Harris said.
In March, the government announced an EC$120-million (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) stimulus package to help cushion the economic impact of the virus.