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JHTA tells Gov't timeline needed for reopening of Jamaica's borders

Saturday, May 23, 2020

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The Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) yesterday called on the Government to give the nation a clear indication of the reopening timeline for the country's borders and the resumption of both local and international tourism.

Pointing out that other Caribbean countries have already made known when they intend to reopen air and seaports, the JHTA said the closure of the tourism industry since March when the first COVID-19 case was reported here has had a devastating effect on businesses, resulting in job losses.

“In normal times there was always a challenge explaining the extensive economic impact of tourism on our country. Three months into this pandemic we now see in stark terms the true effect of the absence of this industry's 34 per cent (direct and induced) contributor to the country's gross domestic product and the impact it has on the lives and well-being of our people and country,” the JHTA said in a news release.

“Being fully cognisant of the role that tourism plays in the Jamaican economy, 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 tourism lobby group said.

“Additionally, since our 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,” the JHTA added.

The association said it has been working in close partnership with the Government for the development of strengthened sanitisation and personal health protocols to govern the operations of businesses in the 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. In fact, many tourism businesses have started to implement these protocols, source the requisite personal protective equipment for team members, and are in progress to start the training of their team members towards reopening,” the JHTA said.

The association said it was aware that not all businesses have the same resources and capacity, however it accepts that sector-wide readiness will be staggered over weeks to months. “Hence we expect 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 JHTA said.

“There is no doubt in anyone's mind of the seriousness of this health crisis that we, along with the rest of the world, are 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.

“It is therefore time for us to begin living with COVID until we can eliminate it. 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 association said.

“In the spirit of partnership, we say to the Government, it is now time for our entire country to get back to work in a responsible manner. Even after Jamaica announces its borders reopened, we in the tourism sector still 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.”

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