Cruise concernsFriday, August 27, 2021
BY ANTHONY LEWIS
ST JAMES, Jamaica — President of the Jamaica Co-operative Automobile and Limousine Tours Ltd (JCAL), Brian Thelwell, says while there is optimism among his membership in western Jamaica surrounding the return of cruise ships to the ports in Falmouth and Montego Bay, there are concerns that freelance tour operators who have been out of a job for the past year-and-a-half will be left out.
The Carnival Sunrise cruise ship was the first vessel to arrive on the island since March 2020. The ship had docked at the Turtle Bay Pier in Ocho Rios, St Ann, with more than 3,000 passengers on August 16.
However, similar to what took place in Ocho Rios where some ground transport operators were left out in favour of others is expected to be repeated in the west in the upcoming days.
This means, only bus operators with pre-booked tours will be allowed on the Freeport Pier in St James or the Falmouth Pier in Trelawny. Freelancers will be left at a disadvantage.
“There are certain conditionalities of the ship returning and for the most part, especially for the freelancers, it will not be business as usual. Prior to COVID, we would have passengers who would not have taken a tour off the ship [or] bought one of the tours that they are selling on board. They (passengers) would have come out, engaged a driver and they would have taken them to wherever they would have wanted to go. Some of the places are not even sold on the ships. So, these people have a great experience of what Jamaica is like, not just what they sold to them on board,” explained Thelwell.
“Now, the cruise ships are saying, basically, when they are coming now, there will be no more freelance. So it simply means, only those tours that are sold on board will be supported by the ship,” added the president of the St James headquartered organisation.
A source at the Port Authority of Jamaica told the Jamaica Observer that as part of an agreement to commence the reopening of the sector, a bubble concept was implemented with controlled tours. This means that an enclosed environment where there are only visitors and Jamaicans would not be a part of.
“So, the idea is not to have interactions with visitors and the public at this time to mitigate against COVID exposure and spread,” the source stated.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness had stated earlier this month that the resumption of the cruise industry will be done under strict protocols that will give hope to persons who had had their livelihood desolated by the pandemic while at the same time ensuring the maintenance of the protocols to ensure that no lives are lost because of complacency or careless.
Holness had also pointed to the importance of inoculating workers in the tourism industry.
“We want all workers to be vaccinated and are going to be very strong. We have established a special task force under the co-chairmanship of the permanent secretary, Jennifer Griffith, and the president of the JHTA, Clifton Reader, to drive this process. No cruise passenger will go to any attraction that is not COVID-certified and have licences to operate,” stated Holness.
Thelwell said getting the jab could become the norm in the future for travellers. Thelwell, who is a vaccine advocate, noted that while he cannot force his membership of 1,200 islandwide to take the vaccine, he has been encouraging them to take the vaccine.
“I am fully vaccinated and I am in a campaign to ensure that as many members as possible get vaccinated. I cannot force them because of their religion or [for] whatever reason they may not want to do it but to participate in it [tourism industry] I have been saying to them, you need to get vaccinated,” stated Thelwell who was unable to say what percentage of his members have been inoculated.
Meanwhile, the president of the 32-year-old organisation said the downturn of the tourism industry last year made it difficult for all in the tourism industry.
“It is difficult even without the cruise ships coming. What happened when the entire industry was shutdown had a severe impact on most of the players in the tourism industry and more so, even the transportation sector which is the direct link between moving the people from one place to the next, from the airport whatever, because there can be no tourism without transportation. And we were impacted severely, not just cruise shipping wise, but the entire industry shutting down,” argued Thelwell.
The ports in Falmouth, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios are expected to accommodate a total of 25 cruise ship calls from Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International and MSC Cruises up to October 26.
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