Acting together for the good of all

Editorial

Acting together for the good of all

Monday, July 06, 2020

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Jamaicans, their Caribbean neighbours, and indeed people everywhere, know that damage to tourism caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is devastating local economies.

Not just those directly involved in the industry, but farmers, manufacturers, service sector operators, et al, feel the knock-on effect of the tourism collapse on a daily basis.

Even so, a report from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimating that the novel coronavirus could cost the global visitor industry and allied sectors anywhere from US$1.2 trillion to US$3.3 trillion in lost revenue is chilling.

Even more disturbing, at the local level, the report places Jamaica at the top of countries likely to be most adversely affected.

We are told that, in the most moderate scenario, Jamaica could lose 11 per cent of its national output; Thailand nine per cent, Croatia eight per cent, and Portugal six per cent.

The Dominican Republic, Kenya, and Morocco would all lose five per cent.

We can't say for sure on what basis the report identifies Jamaica as likely to be worst hit. But we get the picture.

The UNCTAD report says developing countries are likely to be most impacted in a prolonged slump for tourism. Unemployment could rise by more than 20 percentage points in some countries, the report says.

We can't but agree with Tourism Minister Mr Edmund Bartlett that the UNCTAD report underlines that Jamaica has taken the correct approach in gradually reopening its life-giving visitor industry, even while paying the keenest possible attention to safety.

Says Mr Bartlett: “As I recently indicated in Parliament, restoring our tourism sector is a matter of economic life and death. The reality is that Jamaica's economy is dependent on the tourism industry. It contributes 50 per cent of the foreign exchange earnings of the economy and generates 354,000 direct, indirect, and induced jobs.”

Mr Bartlett has said that Jamaica is expected to lose $146 billion from April 2020 to March 2021, due to the downturn in tourism caused by COVID-19.

Point made.

The big question is how to reopen without endangering tourism workers and the wider population, especially in light of the surge of infections around the world, not least the United States, Jamaica's biggest market.

In effect, how to walk between the raindrops.

The answer has to be well thought out and executed with safety protocols and practices every step of the way, which, of course, is easier said than done.

Against that backdrop, we are heartened by the excellent steps already taken by Jamaica's tourism sector to prevent spread of the virus. Additionally, we welcome news that Caribbean hoteliers, other tourism interests, and health officials have formed a COVID-19 Caribbean Tourism Task Force to develop health/safety guidelines and training for thousands of tourism workers in the region.

We are told that the initiative includes detailed checklists backed by health safety training for tourism workers in ground transportation, accommodation, food/beverage, and attractions.

Organisations involved in the project include the Caribbean Public Health Agency, Caribbean Tourism Organisation, Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre, and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States Commission.

We look forward to more such initiatives as the region acts together for the safe reopening of an industry that is absolutely vital.


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If there were no government COVID restrictions, and people were able to decide for themselves about how to manage their risk, how soon would you return to your normal activities?
Right now
11%
After new cases decline
16%
After no new cases
34%
After vaccine developed
24%
I've already returned to my normal routine
15%

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