Unless there is a compelling reason, visitors can no longer go to Guadeloupe and Martinique, which usually host 160,000 metropolitan residents in February.
Anti-Covid health restrictions weigh heavily on the French West Indies. Flagship winter destination, with winter sports resorts, Guadeloupe and Martinique currently live “a catastrophic situation»At the tourist level. This sector represents 10% of local GDP in these overseas departments.
For two weeks, the hotels have been emptied. Travel agencies, tour operators, must manage an avalanche of cancellations of travel reservations. “In the travel agency sector have recorded 10,000 to 15,000 cancellations in the past 15 days», Says Jean-Pierre Mas, president of Travel Companies, a professional organization that represents travel agencies. At issue: the latest health restrictions which since February 1, 2021 require travelers from France to justify a trip for compelling reason to come to Guadeloupe, Martinique or Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthélemy. If this is the case, visitors must present a negative PCR test on entry and return, and observe seven days of isolation.
These measures were decided to protect these overseas territories from the Covid variants. However, they are not understood by tourism professionals, who perceive them as a form of injustice. “Next week Ile-de-France residents who start their vacation will be able to go to Brittany or to the Côte d’Azur. Rent an AirBNB there … While we completely confine the overseas departments where there are hardly any positive cases. There are two weights, two measures, it’s hard to understand», Testifies Gilbert Cisneros, boss of Exotismes, tour operator specializing in travel to the islands.
The high tourist season – which starts in these departments from the Christmas holidays to the end of the February holidays – had nevertheless started well in the French Antilles. “The period from December 15 to January 15 in Guadeloupe and Martinique, the season was almost at the level of 2019. A real light after complicated months», Continues Gilbert Cisneros. According to the firm Protourisme, during New Year’s week, hotels had an occupancy rate of 100% and then turned to 90% occupancy. Before the introduction of anti-Covid measures, the Pointe-à-Pitre / Paris airline was the fourth busiest in the world in terms of seat offer. The company Air Caraïbes had indeed increased its flights since December, just before the Christmas holidays. Air France had also strengthened its service with departures from Orly, but also from Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport. “There, we are witnessing a collapse», Laments Didier Arino, associate director of Protourism.
“It is catastrophic to prohibit access to the West Indies”
Jean-Pierre Mas, President of Travel Companies
«It’s catastrophic to deny access to the West Indies, is also alarmed Jean-Pierre Mas, from Travel Companies, especially since in December the holidays went very well. In Guadeloupe, 40,000 metropolitan residents came and there was not a case of Covid!», He slips. Usually, in February, 100,000 metropolitan residents come to spend their holidays in Guadeloupe and 60,000 in Martinique. “This year there will be no one. The government must come to its senses», He urges.
These tourism players warn against the risks of an explosion of social anger in these departments which had been the scene of a social conflict in 2009. “These restrictions risk pushing into precariousness a whole section of the society which lives on odd jobs linked to tourism.», Warns Jean-Pierre Mas. In Guadeloupe alone, 20,000 jobs in the tourism sector are threatened.