Chief Operating Officer (COO) for Sandals International Resorts, Shawn DaCosta, says despite the impact COVID-19 has had on the tourism industry globally, persons still have not lost their appetite for travelling.
Pointing to the 80 per cent occupancy at the flagship Sandals Montego Bay property for the month of July, Mr. DaCosta said Jamaica is both strategically placed and so well advanced in its health and safety protocols that tourism might well make a bigger comeback earlier than many persons would have anticipated.
“The appetite for travelling is strong… . That is what we are seeing and that is what we are getting from the market,” he told JIS News.
“The United States market is going to travel… . The US market we know wants to travel, as people have been telling us of their desire to travel. This is what we have been getting from right across the states,” he added.
Mr. DaCosta said that the concern about guests coming into the island with the coronavirus should be weighed against the reality that “persons don’t travel if they know that they are sick”.
“People are travelling because they know that they are healthy. Even a COVID-19 hotspot like Florida… people are using it mainly as a gateway to come to Jamaica and are not necessarily coming in from Florida,” he noted.
Mr. DaCosta said that Sandals has not been coming across guests in the hotels that are sick or are showing symptoms associated with COVID-19, noting that “we are actually seeing a decline in the number of persons who would normally be coming to our nurses’ station for even a blood pressure check”.
The Sandals COO said Jamaica was correct in not going into a full lockdown, preferring to focus on the health guidelines, including social distancing, wearing masks and hand sanitising.
He added that the transition was never a difficult one for Sandals, noting that the organisation has been practising social distancing and other health protocols long before the advent of COVID-19.
Mr. DaCosta and other members of the Jamaican-owned resort chain toured the Sandals Ochi Beach Resort, where a first-hand view was given of how the Sandals Platinum Protocols of Cleanliness are implemented across the group, which closed temporarily at the start of April.
The COO said that the Ocho Rios property was chosen for the demonstration, as it is scheduled to be reopened by October.