Jamaica tourism minister, Edmund Bartlett, has revealed protocols to facilitate the reopening of the tourism industry, which was adversely impacted by the novel Covid-19, have been drafted.
The new measures are being reviewed by the ministry of health and wellness.
The minister made the announcement during a virtual ceremony at the offices of the ministry in New Kingston to handover 10,000 masks to frontline industry workers.
Tourism is among the sectors hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, with several hotels and attractions having to scale down or close operations.
The protocols, which are contained in an 88-page document, will target all segments of the industry including – accommodation, attractions, water sports, craft shops, shopping, cruise ports, airports, contract carriage, restaurants and bars.
Minister Bartlett said once the document is finalised and signed off: “We would have, perhaps, the most rigorous set of protocols that could be available anywhere in the world to protect, not just the workers, but the whole country, as we look to reopen the industry when the prime minister announces.”
The minister also advised that the United Nations World Tourism Organisation and the World Tourism & Travel Council will be briefed on the protocols.
“We are working towards a summer opening,” the minister continued.
“Our opening is imminent, but I do not have a date as of yet.
“Thank goodness, however, we are flattening the Covid-19 curve and the rate of death has remained static.
Bartlett argued that with a summer restart, the industry could record visitor arrivals averaging between 20 and 30 per cent, with the figure rounding down to 20 per cent during the fall period, before picking up to about 60 or 70 per cent over the winter season.
“We could end up with another two million visitors – somewhere around 50 per cent of last year, if we can have a summer start between June and August,” he added.
“Between January and February, we had 5.5 per cent gross tourist arrivals – we brought in 1.25 million visitors and earned US$859 million dollars.
“That would have put us on a path to earn US$4 billion by the end of the year, with 4.5 million visitors.
“We were doing extremely well.
“However, as of March 10th, the numbers fell to zero.”
The minister said that, with the Caribbean being the most tourism-dependent region globally, there is no room for complacency, noting that regional heads have to prepare for the “ushering of a new era.”
The ministry of tourism has provided 10,000 masks for frontline industry workers as part of safeguards against Covid-19, for when the sector reopens.
“We are recommending that all the workers of the tourism industry should wear their mask.
“The prime minister, Andrew Holness, has already made that a condition for all of us, and the medical fraternity has supported that; so we want to assist in ensuring full compliance,” Bartlett added.
The wearing of masks in public spaces globally has been recommended by the World Health Organisation and the Centre for Diseases Control & Prevention, as part of measures to contain the spread of Covid-19.
According to Bartlett, this latest initiative, being undertaken through the Tourism Product Development Company and Tourism Linkages Network, a division of the Tourism Enhancement Fund, is another ministry intervention aimed at safeguarding workers’ wellbeing.
“We are spending just a little over $5 million in this exercise and we are excited that it will do a number of things,” he said.
The minister explained that not only will the initiative facilitate the provision of much-needed protective cover, but will contribute to economic sustainability by generating opportunities for small enterprises to create a cottage industry through the making of masks.
“So far, we have some 22 small entrepreneurs who are making masks for us to make up this 10,000, and we are going to add some more as we go along,” he informed.
Bartlett also explained that due to the industry’s vulnerability to pandemics and epidemics, rigorous development of safeguards, such as screenings, is consistently being undertaken to protect locals and visitors.
He said that until a vaccine is found “we have the responsibility to manage the risk that this virus is causing in our own space and build layers of protection so that the risk can be reduced.”
“The ministry of tourism continues to create innovative and game changing policies and strategies while we manage the virus.
“We are committed to making sure that of all the people who have to interface with the industry that the workers, in particular, are protected because they are our frontline people,” Bartlett added.
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