Sunday 9 August, 2020

JHTA calls for a start date to reopen borders

People enjoy Doctor's Cave Beach, a famous, white, sandy beach in Montego Bay Jamaica on a sunny day. (iStock photo)

People enjoy Doctor's Cave Beach, a famous, white, sandy beach in Montego Bay Jamaica on a sunny day. (iStock photo)

The Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) is calling on the government to give a clear indication of the reopening timeline for the borders and the resumption of both local and international tourism.

In a statement on Friday, the JHTA said it has been three months since the almost complete shutdown of the tourism sector due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“There is no doubt in anyone's mind of the seriousness of this health-related crisis we along with the rest of the world is living through, but it is now clear that we have at a minimum 18-24 months before we can expect a viable vaccine to become available and likely much longer before it is sufficiently distributed worldwide,” the association said.

The JHTA reasoned that the country must, therefore “begin 'living with COVID' until the virus can be eliminated.

“Doing so includes getting our people and country safely back to work, so that we can stave off the rapid emergence of worsening social and economic conditions for our people,” the JHTA, led by president Omar Robinson said.

President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, Omar Robinson

The association also noted that several countries in the Caribbean have already outlined reopening dates.

Even after Jamaica announces its borders reopened, the JHTA said the sector will have “a massive amount of work to do to rebuild travel trade agreements and relationships.”

“So the time is now to allow us to get out there and do the job our sector is designed to do for the country,” the association reiterated.

The JHTA reckoned that should closure of the borders extend any longer, many more Jamaicans will be out of work.

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Tourism plays a major role in the Jamaican economy and the shutdown of our businesses has had a devastating effect on almost 300,000 direct and indirect tourism workers across the length and breadth of Jamaica who at this time are suffering financially, the JHTA said.

Additionally, since businesses are now closed, the thousands of suppliers including farmers, entertainers, distributors, craft traders, taxi drivers, banks, artisans, tradesmen and many more have seen precipitous and devastating declines in their businesses, resulting in massive job losses and business closures in those sectors as well.

“In addition to all the above, there is also a real possibility that if this drags on much longer quite a few of our sector businesses may fail to reopen at all putting many Jamaicans out of work,” the statement said.

The JHTA further said it is “fully cognizant of the fact that not all our businesses have the same resources and capacity.”

As such, it accepts that sector-wide readiness will be staggered over weeks to months.

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The JHTA said it therefore expects progressive announcements of opening dates from different businesses. 

“Important though is that we must make a decisive restart of the sector and that begins with a definitive start date for the opening of the borders and the approval for the resumption of commercial flights into the country,” the statement added.

The JHTA said it has been working in close partnership with the government for the development of strengthened sanitization and personal health protocols to govern the operations of the businesses in the Jamaican tourism sector.

“Our accommodations, attractions, transportation, craft traders and others will be required to implement what will be protocols benchmarked against some of the best such standards around the world,” the association said.

Already, many tourism businesses have started to implement these protocols, source the requisite PPE’s for team members and are in progress to start the training of their team members towards reopening, according to the JHTA.

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