Caribbean must put strategic tourism plans in place — BartlettSunday, May 31, 2020
Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett says tourism-dependent countries, such as Jamaica, must put strategic plans in place to prepare workers for a reopening of the industry, in the shortest possible time.
According to Bartlett, it is against this background that the most urgent priority is to secure the health and livelihoods of tourism workers and prepare the sector for “an inevitable new normal…a non-traditional way of doing things”.
“Our economies need to create thousands of jobs for furloughed tourism sector workers. They need them quickly. However, unlike the European Union, the United Kingdom or the United States, governments in the Caribbean cannot afford to offer wage subsidy furlough schemes,” the minister stated.
“In Jamaica, our approach has had several facets, including providing economic stimulus, helping businesses to access benefits, partnering with financial institutions to relax loan arrangements and improve access to credit, identifying alternative supply chains and promoting digital marketing and human resource development,” he continued.
However, since March, there has been very little or no tourism activity in most Caribbean countries, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced most countries to completely close borders for both passenger air travel and cruise ships, and thus laid off workers indefinitely.
The tourism sector in Jamaica directly employs 160,000 people, and with the closure of most hotels and accommodations, an estimated 120,000 workers have been retrenched, with only 40,000 workers retained, some of whom are now earning dramatically reduced incomes, according to the minister.
“Most destinations have been forced to revise the original end of year revenue projections for 2020, based on the high rate of flight and advance booking cancellations. Over the next six months, it is quite possible that tourism in the region could decline by between 50 per cent and 100 per cent,” he said.
“Unfortunately, tourism-dependent economies like ours throughout the Caribbean region have limited social safety nets. This means that our people, economy, and future are far more likely to be wrecked by COVID-19 than nations with more diversified economies. Today, airports and hotels here are shuttered, unemployment throughout the region is soaring, and nobody knows when these tourism sector jobs may come back”.
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