Some red list destinations ‘feel very close to normal’

Some countries on the UK’s red list of destinations which remain subject to quarantine restrictions feel “very close to normal”, according to a leading destination management company in the region.

Gary Cohen, regional general manager for the Americas at Peak DMC – part of Intrepid – told a Latin American Travel Association Expo panel there has been “a dramatic improvement” in the region.

Speaking from Lima, Cohen said: “It has been a brutal period during Covid. Peru has had the highest death rate per capita in the world. Pretty much everyone has lost a family member or a friend. We lost a member of staff here in Lima and other staff lost family members.”

But now he insisted: “Peru feels very close to normal. I just got back from a week in Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Cusco was buzzing. There was a good mix of national and international tourists. Safety protocols are in place.

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“Nearly everything has gone back to normal apart from mask wearing and capacity reductions. For example, the Inca Trail would normally have a limit of 16 in a group and it’s currently eight and will move to 10 next year.

“The Covid stats at the moment are good. Cases of hospitalisation and deaths are dramatically lower than a few months ago.”

Peru remains on the UK red list along with Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.

But Cohen said: “We operate across Latin America and we’ve seen the statistics improving dramatically across the region. There were recent spikes in Costa Rica and Belize, but apart from that almost the whole region has been trending downwards significantly, leading to restrictions being lifted in Argentina and Chile. From November 1, international tourists will be able to travel there.

“Colombia has been open for tourism for some time. So has Ecuador, and these countries are doing increasingly well on vaccination.”

He noted: “That doesn’t mean most of the region is open. There are still restrictions in place. But pretty much every country we operate to will be open from November.”

Cohen added: “One challenge is that a lot of people come to do multi-country trips, crossing land borders, so we do need to get that flowing.”

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