The COVID-19 pandemic has caused tourism figures worldwide to plummet completely. The pandemic is a disaster, especially for the regions that play a role in polar tourism. On the one hand, they want to avoid an epidemic because they lack the necessary protection capacities for the population. On the other hand, the economic consequences of the lack of tourists are pose a threat to their economy. The Falkland Islands, for which Antarctic tourism is an important source of income, are concerned about how to counter this situation.
Steph Middleton, managing director of the Falkland Islands Tourist Board, said in an interview with local newspaper Penguin News that the decision on how to organize the tourist season in the Falkland Islands has not yet been made. “The Falkland Islands Govenrment (FIG) will take a decision on the immigration policy from October and beyond within the next three months,” she said. “This decision can then be continued on a monthly basis or MEPs will choose to end the uncertainty and will set it for a longer period of time so that everyone can plan more effectively.”
The Falkland Islands are a British overseas territory administered by a governor. But in many areas, the archipelago, which has a population of around 3,000, is self-governing. To this end, there is the Legislative Assembly, the 11-member governing body. Among other things, it decides how to proceed in the current pandemic situation. Since April 7th, the islands have been closed to all non-essential voyages. There is a connection to the outside world via an airbridge to the UK. However, other flights and ships currently are not permitted. The administration is closely monitoring the further development of the pandemic at global level. Because visitors to the Falkland Islands are international and arrived for the most part by ship. According to port authorities figures, between October 2019 and March 2020, almost 82,000 international tourists came to Port Stanley by sea. For this reason, it is necessary to closely monitor developments in those countries from which the majority of visitors hail. Additionally, the reactions of airlines and ship operators should also be taken into account in the decision.
According to Steph Middleton, however, factors such as the opinion of medical experts and the Falklands’ ability to test and track possible infections, and above all the care of infected persons, especially their own population, are also crucial to a decision of the MLAs. If they decide against tourism, this is a fact. Period. However, if an opening is decided, it could go in different directions. For example, only ships whose guests and crew have been tested in advance are allowed, or only guests who arrive via airbridge are allowed to enter. But in addition to the global figures and decisions, the local Tourist Board has been tasked with providing facts and figures on how different scenarios, visitor numbers and measures could affect the economy of the Falkland Islands. In any case, the facts about COVID-19 are important, not the wishes of the economy alone. “It would be wrong to say: prepare for the season, everything is ok. Because we just don’t know. But it would also be wrong to say that it is unlikely that we will let anyone in until 2021 at the moment,” she says. “We need to follow the (tourism) sector, monitor our source markets and the decisions of their governments, and then prepare accordingly. There will be a “new reality” in tourism from 2020 and we must be ready for it. Even if we don’t know when it will come. Otherwise, we could be set back by several years in contrast to those destinations that have now prepared.”
Source: Penguin News / Mercopress
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