'It's all yours,' JHTA tells entertainers pining after reopeningMonday, June 14, 2021
By Desmond Allen
The package of hugely successful tourism protocols which have kept staff and visitors safe from the COVID-19 disease, at an astounding positivity rate of under one per cent, is now at the disposal of the events and entertainment industry.
After 15 months under lockdown, the industry is pining after a Government decision to reopen, saying it has suffered an almost total wipeout of the income of a wide range of players in the cultural and creative industries.
“This has had a tremendous negative impact on members who earn a significant part of their income from the societies, as well as from live performances and touring,” said the two local music rights societies organisations here — the Jamaica Music Society (JAMMS) and Jamaica Association of Composers, Authors and Publishers (JACAP).
“Despite the submission of proposals from industry groups and interest groups, more than a year has elapsed without any indication of when enhanced measures will be approved for safe resumption of economic activities that support the lives of tens of thousands of people,” the organisations complained.
They said in a press statement that “a structured step-by-step process from application to host an event to approval of the event must be identified and published”.
Head of the umbrella Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) Clifton Reader said the tourism industry had just what the entertainers ordered, noting: “Our protocol-based resilient corridors have worked extremely well to keep staff and visitors safe.”
“The entertainment industry needs only to tweak the various elements of the plan and I see no reason why the Government would not be in a position to make the decision to reopen. They had a sluggish start but with the work we have done in the tourism industry. We have been working with them towards this end,” said Reader.
The Resilient Corridors include the coastline from Negril to Port Antonio (north coast corridor) and from Milk River to Negril (south coast corridor). Only businesses within the corridor that have undergone training and assessed to be adherent to COVID-19 protocols are allowed to open to tourists.
Reader told the Jamaica Observer that the corridors were set up at the very start of the pandemic, with the industry taking a very proactive, disciplined, focused and collaborative approach to reduce the contact between the local population and tourists.
“I am proud to say that our employees championed the cause and, to date, we have seen almost 100 per cent compliance with employees wearing their masks especially and practising distancing.
“Overtime it has worked, the positivity rate right now that is in the corridor, we actually took a sample of 67,000 guests who were tested (antigen tests) coming into the island and were tested going back out and we found a positivity rate of .65 from that 67,000,” Reader disclosed.
“This is remarkable because this was done at a time when positivity rates on the island were between 25 and 30 per cent. Now that we have double vaccination and single VAX people coming in there is a little bit of pushback with them not wanting to wear the masks and stuff like that, but we put in additional staff to ensure that these protocols are maintained by both the guests and staff,” he added.
In a later interview with EDGE FM's Richie B, Reader said the sector was slowly edging its way back to normality, while predicting that it would take another six months for full recovery.
“But the outlook is a lot better than six months ago when we were running between 10 and 20 per cent occupancy and… working with the banks to make sure that we could survive.”
A lot of hotels that basically shut their doors are gradually reopening now.
“The average occupancy seems to be around 50.2 per cent as we go into June/July. This is nowhere near breakeven for some people because some of the larger hotels don't breakeven until they get to like 75 per cent occupancy and we are far from that right now.
“We are crawling our way there and we think that within the next six months or so we will probably get to recovery and in another year or so to pre-2019 figures, which were the best year we had in tourism for a long time.”
— Alicia Dunkley-Willis, senior reporter, contributed to this story
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