Ja's tourism sector to reopen soon

Business

Ja's tourism sector to reopen soon

...could take place in a matter of weeks

BY KELLARAY MILES
Business reporter
milesk@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, May 15, 2020

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Jamaica's tourism industry will be reopened in short order with a date to be announced soon. That's the word from the country's tourism minister, Edmund Bartlett.

Speaking at a COVID-19 media briefing held earlier this week, the minister said that plans are being put in place and protocols far-advanced to facilitate the safe and earliest reopening of one of the country and region's main economic activity.

He said key stakeholders are currently working on a plan to get the industry, which has been closed for several weeks, back on track.

“From the hoteliers, airlines, travel agents and the attractions — we've established perhaps one of the strongest team ever assembled for the building of the tourism fabric in our country.

“We're satisfied that within a short period of time and in consultation with all these stakeholders and partners [including those in the Caribbean] — in terms of a time for reopening— we will be able to announce very, very shortly a specific date that we will begin to open tourism to the world,” he said.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who also indicated that the Government is inching closer towards reopening of the econom,y said that the restarting of the tourism sector is critical to this.

“With the closure of the global tourism industry, we had no choice here but to close our hotels, but we must be prepared for the day when we reopen. We will not allow the crisis to cripple us to the point where we don't take preparatory action, we have to be timing [it] very carefully because other countries are going to reopen and people are going to travel and Jamaica must be the number one destination for travel,” he said while speaking at the briefing last Monday.

The country's tourism sector, which was forced with early closure amidst the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, has been identified as one of those to take a massive hit as cruise and airline visitor arrivals and foreign exchange earnings declined drastically.

The sector which is also a major employer also reported that since the closure of hotels and other tourist attractions, some 100,000 people have had to be temporarily laid off, as hoteliers grapple with downturn in their businesses.

Just recently some popular hotels in Jamaica and across the Caribbean have indicated that they were laying all the necessary groundwork needed to meet all the safety requirements for the reopening of their businesses in August—which marks the peak of the busy summer season. Carnival cruises have also said that they will be seeking to resume cruises in the next couple of months, with Jamaica listed among its itineraries.

In a statement by the company late last month the eight ships named by the company had itineraries which showed stops in The Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica and Mexico and other places.

“We are taking a measured approach, focusing our return to service on a select number of homeports where we have more significant operations that are easily accessible by car for the majority of our guests. Any resumption of cruise operations — whenever that may be — is fully dependent on our continued efforts in cooperation with federal, state, local and international government officials,” the company said.

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) in its latest research findings purported that as the world and the tourism sector in many countries remain closed— opening the world up to tourism again will save jobs, protect livelihoods and enable the sector to resume its vital role in driving sustainable development.

According to UNWTO secretary general, Zurab Pololikashvili, a coordinated effort must be engaged in lifting the restrictions that are currently in place in most countries.

“Tourism has been the hardest hit of all the major sectors as countries lockdown and people stay at home. UNWTO calls on governments to work together to coordinate the easing and lifting of restrictions in a timely and responsible manner, when it is deemed safe to do so,” he said.

He further added that this is especially needed for those countries who rely heavily on the economic benefits of the sector, this he believes as, “Tourism is a lifeline to millions, especially in the developing world.”

The secretary general said that over the last few weeks he has been working closely with the relevant agencies and bodies worldwide, making a case for tourism to be made a priority as countries seek to recover from the crisis.


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