Next March, it will be two years since Easter Island closed its territory to the entry of tourists as a measure to prevent the spread of the pandemic in one of the country’s best-known tourist destinations internationally.
After the long wait, all hopes were pinned on the announcement made by the government that visitors could return from February 1st. But the arrival of the Omicron variant and the rise in infections in Chile led the health authority to suspend the opening, without setting a new date, and despite the fact that a survey on the island showed that 70% of those consulted supported ending with restricted access to tourists.
And it is that tourism is one of the main economic activities of the island, which generates income and work for a significant number of its inhabitants, who for almost 24 months have been forced to reinvent themselves or barely survive, since they do not there is tourist activity in the area, which has caused a tremendous human and social drama.
This situation has been expressed by the tourism companies that operate there to the Federation of Tourism Companies of Chile (Fedetur), mostly micro and small businesses that depend on the arrival of visitors to the island territory. In fact, the union entity has held permanent coordination meetings with various tourism stakeholders on the island, such as the local Chamber of Tourism, to address actions and measures that help mitigate the deep crisis affecting the industry in that part of Chile. .
“But there is no longer any help that works,” says Helen Kouyoumdjian, the executive vice president of Fedetur, “because there is no economic activity that can stand up for practically two years without working,” adds the union representative. For this reason, he points out, is that “we ask the government to set an opening date for the entry of tourists to Easter Island before the end of its mandate, and thus be able to provide certainty to the sector in that destination.”
In Fedetur they argue that one of the conditions that the Executive had set to open the island to tourists, that 80% of the people in the country be vaccinated with its complete schedule, a condition that has already been met. “Keeping the island closed to tourists is deepening the despair in the area, since a large part of the inhabitants of that destination depend on tourism to live,” says Helen Kouyoumdjian.
The union representative emphasizes that “the problem is not only that the opening has been suspended, but that a new date was not set to open the island to tourism, and the current government has little more than a month left to finish its mandate.” “The logical thing would have been for them to establish a new date, which would allow the tourism industry on Easter Island to be certain of how much longer it will have to wait, considering that visitors plan trips to the island in advance,” Kouyoumdjian states.
Meanwhile, Edgard Hereveri, president of the Rapa Nui Chamber of Tourism, states that “we have been organizing ourselves for the last two years, with the aim of preparing the reopening of tourism in our territory in the best possible way, and this postponement It fell like a bucket of cold water.”
“We have always placed a special emphasis on ensuring the health safety of our entire community. This is how we have carried out the implementation, training and induction in protocols and guides of general good practices for the prevention of COVID, aimed at the gastronomy, hotel, tour operator, travel agency, tourist guide and the entire community sectors, so permanent and free, in strategic alliance with the Municipality of Easter Island, the Valparaiso Tourism Corporation and Sernatur Rapa Nui”.
The personero emphasizes that “in order to advance in this process, it is important to implement a mobile laboratory at the airport, in order to be able to take the PCR upon the arrival of travelers; the creation of a health residence; and due to the low complexity condition of the Hanga Roa Hospital, the proposal that national passengers acquire Covid health insurance, just as foreign tourists do. In this way, if a critical case occurs, those affected can be effectively transferred to the mainland. This, to guarantee not only the health security of the inhabitants of Rapa Nui, but also of those who are temporarily in our territory.
Taking into account the above, it is expected that the Government will set an upcoming date for the opening of the island.