Negril chamber calls for more support amid COVID uncertainty


Negril chamber calls for more support amid COVID uncertainty

Observer West writer

Thursday, January 07, 2021

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NEGRIL, Westmoreland -Richard Wallace, president of the Negril Chamber of Commerce, is pleading with the financial institutions and utility companies to renew the support they offered to businesses during the early stage of the coronavirus pandemic.

“When COVID hit in March, the Government and the banks responded,” Wallace stressed.

“The banks gave a three-month moratorium on loans. We are now nine months into the pandemic. Even the Government programmes are still ongoing and extended even though payments have been delayed. We need all stakeholders to respond again, utility companies, banks, financial institutions. We appreciated the support we got earlier, but they need to revisit it again.”

He further pointed out that properties are still being plagued by high utility bills, “even properties that are closed are receiving bills with charges that they would have generally received when in operation.”

“With the current occupancy rate below the initial projections nine months into the pandemic, many business proprietors in the tourism industry are still struggling to keep their doors open,” he told the Jamaica Observer West.

He noted that the current occupancy rates in the Negril are below projections, adding that 2020 has ended with just under 30 per cent occupancy.

“It is projected by the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) that January will be in the teens, February in the 20s, March should be back in the 30s and, hopefully, April will be in the 40s or even 50s,” he pointed out.

Wallace, who is also a hotelier, is, however, hopeful that with the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine, occupancy levels will improve, as individuals will feel safer travelling.

He was speaking with the Observer West recently after the launch of the COVID Ambassador Programme in Negril.

The initiative is a collaborative effort between the JHTA and the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) and parish councils.

The programme will see hotel employees trained in the health and safety protocols for the tourism sector, going into communities where they live to train community members in the COVID-19 protocols such as proper hand washing techniques, social distancing, mask-wearing and sanitisation.

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