Safe corridors to pave way for tourism's return — Holness

Business

Safe corridors to pave way for tourism's return — Holness

Prime minister interviewed on CNN

BY RICHARD BROWNE
Business editor
browner@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, May 15, 2020

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In its preparation to reopen the country to tourism, Jamaica is considering a type of safe travel corridor for tourists with up to date travel certificates or health passports in order to restart the toursim industry, according to Prime Minsister Andrew Holness, speaking in an interview with CNN's Richard Quest yesterday afternoon on Quest Means Business.

The interview via Skype featured clips of toursists enjoying Jamaica and focused primarily on how Jamaica was trying to open up its tourism sector as quickly as possible, while protecting its citizens.

Holness announced the upcoming interview via his social media pages earlier in the day, with a note that said “Tune into my interview with CNN's Richard Quest at 2:15 pm today on CNN International channel as well as streaming live from my social media pages. We will be talking about Jamaica's economic recovery and resilience in the era of COVID-19.”

Quest first asked Holness how likely it would be for Jamaica to get the economy as close as possible to full capacity as he had previously stated.

“Its a very realistic proposition,” Holness said, and invited the host “to be one of the first tourists to come back to Jamaica”.

Safety and livelihood are his Government's two top priorities he shared. “I don't see a trade-off between health and the economy,” he said.

“You need healthy people to make an economy work and [a] working economy gives you healthy people,” he said, noting that tourism plays a very important role and that the country relies heavily on the industry – with tourism as the number one foreign exchange earner and accounting for over 50 per cent of the foreign exchange that the country earns.

A CNN graphic stated that toursim represents a third of Jamaica's GDP and grew by seven per cent in 2019, with some 406 thousand related jobs up to Easter and 65 per cent of tourists coming from the US market.

But Quest wondered how possible it would be to create a safe travel corridor, especially with the high rate of COVID-19 infections in the US.

“We have to plan in advance and anticipate when our largest markets will be ready for us,” Holness said, adding that the country is preparing beforehand and anticipating the time when tourist markets from such places as the US, Canada and Europe will be ready to come.

He said his would not be the first global shock that tourism would have had, and that “in the Caribbean we are aware of these shocks and we are resilient”.

On the protocols being planned Holness said, “We are already figuring out ways how we can have controlled corridors of entry and how to move our tourists safely from the airports to the hotels so they can enjoy our lovely beaches and our lovely people. We are training our workers towards providing the kind of service that people will need in the post-COVID environment.”

Quest queried how the travel certificate or health passport would work, given that someone could become infected the day after getting tested.

“It's the information that is important,” Holness said, noting that the health profile would help the visitor be aware of the protocols they would have to follow and would allow the Government to “determine the risk profile of the visitor who is coming”.

At the end of the interview, Quest accepted Holness's offer to visit and said “I look forward to you and I continuing the discussion, preferably and hopefully on one of Jamaica's beautiful beaches. Thank you, Prime Minister.”

“I'm looking forward to that — let me know when you are coming,” Holness said.

There were mixed comments from people who watched the interview.

“The whole world is admiring you,” read one viewer's comment, while another stated simply, “Madness.”


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