Covid deals blow to Caribbean festivals

Another victim of the Covid-19 pandemic is the Caribbean entertainment industry.

The crisis has resulted in the cancellation or postponement of several of the region’s spring and summer music and sports festivals, at a time of year when Caribbean islands use these festivals to attract visitors and large numbers of the diaspora.

Many Caribbean islands will experience or already have seen a drop in revenue from entertainment tourism as festivals across the region slap cancellation notices across their websites and marquees.

Here’s a partial rundown of the status of several music and cultural festivals:

The St. Kitts Music Festival, originally set for June 24 to 28, will now be June 23 to 27, 2021.

The St. Lucia Jazz Festival, scheduled for May 7 to 9, has been canceled.

The Tobago Jazz Experience in Scarborough, Tobago April 23 to 26 has been called off with no future date announced.

The  Tmrw. Tday Culture Fest, which had been on the calendar for April 28 to May 3 in Negril, has gone virtual and is set for April 18 to 28 at

Jamaica’s Reggae Sumfest, originally set for July 12 to 18 in Montego Bay, is still on as festival organizers continue to monitor the spread of the virus in the country.

In the U.S. Virgin Islands, the St. Thomas International Regatta, Carnival St. Thomas, the Taste of St. Croix, the St. Croix Food & Wine Festival, the USVI Tennis Cup and the VI Literary Fest & Book Fair, which were scheduled to take place in late March and April, were canceled.

The PGA Tournament at the Corales golf course in Punta Cana, set for September, is still on the books.

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Surgeon general urges communities of colour to stay home moments after admitting many of their jobs don’t enable them to

The White House coronavirus task force has urged communities of colour to stay home and practice social distancing measures, as data shows the death tolls are higher among Hispanics and blacks in parts of the US.

But this advice came after Surgeon General Dr Jerome Adams admitted those communities were more likely to hold jobs that didn’t allow them to work from home.

“We do not think people of colour are biologically of genetically predisposed to get Covid-19. But they are socially at risk to coronavirus exposure,” Dr Adams said during the press briefing on Friday.

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He implored everyone to “do it for your abuela … your big momma” when it comes to staying at home and following released guidelines. This language Dr Adams used, he said, was in reference to what his own family calls members.

“You are not helpless, it is even more important in communities of colour we adhere to taskforce guidelines,” Dr Adams added.

But it was also revealed that fewer than one in five black Americans hold jobs that allow them to work from home. For Hispanics, about one in six hold jobs that allow them to work from home. These figures come from a report released by the Economic Policy Institute.

Dr Adams said the federal government understood the added strain on communities of colour when dealing with the pandemic, but there were no immediate answers for how officials intended to handle the social and economic problems that are increasing the risk for someone to contract the coronavirus. ‘More details are forthcoming” next week, he added.

In New York City, it was revealed this week 34 per cent of deaths from the novel virus were Hispanic residents while 28 per cent were black. This comes as the New York City population is made up of 29 per cent Hispanic and 22 per cent black residents.

Other cities and states are fairing worse when it comes to the death toll among minority communities.

In Chicago, it was reported about 72 per cent of the death toll has been among blacks even though the community makes up 30 per cent of the city’s population. In Louisiana, 72 per cent of Covid-19 deaths were among black, and they made up about 32 per cent of the state’s population.

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Disparities in death toll in minority communities are also found in areas like Milwaukee County, Washington DC, and North Carolina.

Reasons behind minority communities could be experiencing a larger death toll than others, besides work-from-home data, also include African Americans having historically higher risk for diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease.

Experts have warned a combination of health risks and social structure rooted deep into the US has played a part in creating the disparity for communities of colour to be more at risk than others to contract the novel virus.

“This outbreak is exposing the deep structural inequities that make communities pushed to the margins more vulnerable to health crises in good times and in bad,” Dorianne Mason, the director of health equity at the National Women’s Law Centre, previously said in a statement, The Washington Post reported. “These structural inequities in our health care system do not ignore racial and gender disparities – and neither should our response to this pandemic.”

Dr Adams said these problems could not be fixed “overnight”, but the government was working to “move the needle” for communities of colour.

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Jamaica Tourism Stages Virtual Reggae Concert, Among Other COVID-19 Relief Efforts

Jamaica’s powerful tourism industry continues to play a key role in the country’s coronavirus (COVID-19) relief efforts.

On Sunday, April 12, the Jamaican government will partner with the Ministry of Tourism to host “Telethon Jamaica: Together We Stand,” a virtual reggae concert featuring the likes of Koffee, Shaggy, Sean Paul, Maxi Priest and Richie Spice to raise funds for personal protective equipment such as gloves and masks for frontline healthcare workers in Jamaica.

The live concert will be streamed on the VP Records’ YouTube channel from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. local time, with a portion of the broadcast being aired live on Television Jamaica and various digital platforms.

“‘Telethon Jamaica, Together We Stand’ is a call to action to support our doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals during this challenging time,” said Donovan White, Jamaica’s Director of Tourism. “The donations made will provide essential resources to continue protecting our healthcare workers on the frontline and help fight the spread of COVID-19 across all our communities. I have been inspired by Jamaica’s display of solidarity thus far and I am confident that as a resilient nation, we will get through this together.”

In addition to the virtual concert, hotels and resorts across the island country, including RIU Hotels and Sandals Resorts, are aiding in the fight against COVID-19.

For example, RIU properties in Jamaica are donating food to Montego Bay-based church Fresh Bread Ministries International while Sandals has made the 52-room Carlisle Inn available to the government as a temporary incubation center. The company has also helped finance dozens of ventilators to treat COVID-19 patients.

What’s more, despite the temporary closures of its resorts, Sandals is paying workers 40 percent of their basic salary and allowing them to retain important benefits like health insurance and paid vacation.

Jakes Treasure Beach, Bluefields Bay Villas and Round Hill Hotel and Villas are also assisting with donations, making rooms available and keeping employees on the payroll, among other efforts.

To donate to Jamaica’s COVID-19 relief efforts, visit or call 1-866-228-8393 from the U.S., Canada, and Jamaica; or +44-808-189-6147 from the U.K. and Europe.

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Villa Mercedes Petit Hotel in Puerto Vallarta offers 65 percent discount

Boutique hotel Villa Mercedes Petit Hotel, located in Puerto Vallarta’s Zona Romantica, is offering 65% discounts on their standard rates, valid on any future reservation for bookings through April 30.

Dates are 100% flexible, meaning if you book a specific travel date but need to change it, there will be no issue. Dates can be changed as many times as needed with no penalty.

To book, visit their website and use the promo code PVLOVERS.

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Visitation revenue up in Hawaii prior to pandemic lockdown

New data released by the Hawaii Tourism Authority shows visitors to Hawaii in February and visitor revenue both increased in comparison to February 2019. 

While travel had started to slow due to the spread of Covid-19, Hawaii did not implement strict measures to resist the spread of the disease until mid-March, and tourism continued much as usual through February.

Spending by Hawaii visitors in February totaled $1.46 billion, a nearly 5% increase compared to a year prior. Even with the extra day in February 2020 compared to February 2019, the average spend per day rose 1%.

There were an average of 250,052 visitors on the Islands on any given day in February, a half-percentage point higher than the average daily census for February 2019. Visitation from the U.S. West and U.S East were up 10% and 8% respectively, while visitation and total spend from Japan, Canada and all other international markets declined.

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Hawaii hotels strategize amid shutdown

Aloha State hotels and resorts are swiftly creating game plans after Hawaii Gov. David Ige requested visitors to the Aloha State postpone trips for at least 30 days and then mandated a 14-day quarantine for all arrivals. Several properties have already decided to close for a month or more.

The Kahala Hotel and Resort on Oahu suspended operations March 24 with plans to reopen on May 1 to help arrest the spread of Covid-19 and respond to the tourism slowdown.

“We are deeply saddened to close our doors but understand we must do our part to stop the spread of Covid-19 in our community and protect all residents of Hawaii. We are committed to acting in the best interest of our employees and guests to prioritize their health and safety,” Joe Ibarra, general manager of the Kahala Hotel and Resort, said in a statement. “We are closely monitoring the situation and following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, government leaders and health experts to determine when it is safe and appropriate to reopen.

The entire property, including the spa, fitness center, restaurant and retail stores, will be closed through April. Guests are being offered the option to stay through their scheduled checkout date or leave early without penalty.

Existing reservations from March 24 to May 1 are canceled, while new reservations are being accepted for May 1 and later.

Sister properties Halekulani and Halepuna Waikiki closed March 26, the same day Ige’s quarantine order was set to go into effect. The closure is scheduled to go through April 30.

“As always, the safety and wellbeing of our guests and our Halekulani and Halepuna Waikiki team is our utmost priority,” Halekulani Corp. said in a statement. “Our management team is working closely with our guests and our staff to help them in every way possible in advance of closing our hotels, as well as doing everything possible to safeguard our guests, our staff and our community from Covid-19.”

The Ko Olina Resort, including Four Seasons Resort Oahu, Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa and the Ko Olina Golf Club, on Oahu’s leeward coast has also closed in response to the pandemic.

The resort’s lagoon beaches and the Ko Olina Marina are also shuttered along with the tour providers, wedding chapels, restrooms and parking lots. The timeshare property Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club remains open for now, along with the independently owned restaurants and retail stores at the Ko Olina Station and Ko Olina Center.

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New Study Shows Impact of COVID-19 on Destination Organizations

MMGY Travel Intelligence, in partnership with Destinations International Foundation, has released a new study that shows the ongoing impact of the coronavirus outbreak on North American destination organizations.

Key findings show that organizations expect coronavirus will have an extreme impact on their business over the next six months. The majority of organizations have canceled events and postponed marketing and sales efforts.

These were the first results released from the ongoing study, which is a series of bi-weekly surveys of North American destination professionals that track how this sector has been affected by COVID-19 and what shifts organizations are making.

The first findings show that over the course of two weeks, the pandemic dramatically changed the sector’s outlook, operations and marketing spending.

During the first wave of the survey, which was conducted in early March, less than 20 percent of destination organizations reported reducing or postponing marketing spend and a similar amount reported restricting domestic travel for employees.

Now, in the second wave of the survey two weeks later, 80 percent of destination organizations surveyed have reduced or postponed sales and marketing spend. Sixty percent have asked employees to work from home.

The percentage of destinations reporting coronavirus-related postponements and/or cancellations of conferences, meetings or events surged from under 40 percent in Wave I to almost 100 percent in Wave II.

“Destination organizations not only serve as representatives for the broader travel industry but as stewards of their communities,” said Jack Johnson, chief advocacy officer for the Destinations International Foundation. “This study allows us to support these organizations by creating a tool that shares up-to-date detail on how their peers are managing through this ever-changing process.”

Destination organizations have shifted gears over the last two weeks and are now mostly fielding inquiries about coronavirus-related questions.

The number of respondents receiving 20 or more COVID-19-related inquiries a day rose from 4 percent in the first wave of the survey to 30 percent in the second wave. People are calling to primarily ask about event cancellations and attraction closings, as well as business-related functions such as conferences, conventions and business meetings.

“This is a rapidly evolving situation for our industry, and it’s important for destinations to make decisions based on facts and hard data as they begin to prepare recovery strategies,” said Craig Compagnone, chief operating officer for MMGY Global. “While there is no precedent for this situation, we know that travel has spiked following previous crises, and data will help influence how destinations keep travelers and communities informed until travel restrictions are eased and bookings return.”

The survey also asked destination organizations if they had planned for a situation such as a pandemic. Thirty percent of respondents stated that they had an emergency plan in place.

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Casa Velas opens guacamole bar

Puerto Vallarta’s Casa Velas has debuted a brand-new guacamole bar at the hotel’s private Beach Club.

The bar offers more than 100 ingredients, with mix-ins ranging from onion and tomato to starfruit, quinoa, cheeses and even dried insects. Diners who really want to up the ante can turn their guacamole snack into a meal with grilled shrimp, salmon and more.

The guacamole bar is included in the resort rate.

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UAE visitors will be allowed to stay amid coronavirus shutdown

Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship to grant permission to stay in the country

A specific mechanism for that will be announced in the few coming days.

Visitors to the UAE caught up in the current coronavirus restrictions will be allowed to stay in the country for the foreseeable future.

The United Arab Emirates announced on Monday it will temporarily suspend all passenger and transit flights amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The Emirati authorities “decided to suspend all inbound and outbound passenger flights and the transit of airline passengers in the UAE for two weeks as part of the precautionary measures taken to curb the spread of the Covid-19″, reported the official state news agency, WAM.

While carriers across the world have followed suit and countries closed borders, leaving many stranded in the country and far from home.

However, the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA) has cushioned the blow by granting them permission to stay legitimately in the country, with specific instructions set to be announced in the coming days.

A statement from the authority said: “The ICA is keen to deal with various developments arising from the measures taken at both regional and international levels to contain the spread of coronavirus, Covid-19, in a way that will ensure necessary care to all residents of the UAE.”

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Oberammergau Passion Play postponed coronavirus

The Oberammergau Passion Play, a once-per-decade event in
Germany, is being postponed until 2022 because of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

It’s yet another blow to tour operators and river cruise
companies, which have tied many summer packages to an event that was expected
to draw about half a million visitors.

The play dates to 1633, when the people of the Bavarian
village vowed to re-enact the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
every 10 years to ward off the plague.

More than 2,000 actors, instrumentalists, singers and
supporters — all hailing from the village — take part in the five-hour
performances, which this year were scheduled to run from May 16 to Oct. 4.

The Globus family of brands (Globus, Cosmos, Avalon
Waterways and Monograms) said it would give guests priority for the 2022 event
and at the current price. The company said it expects to offer new dates to travelers
by May 2020.

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