Chairman of the Resilient Corridors Committee (RCC), John Byles, says the spirit of unity and collaboration among tourism stakeholders to combat the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the industry, should be harnessed for the continued development of the sector and the wider economy.
“I have never seen this kind of collaborative effort, with everyone coming together for one single purpose. The only thing that would be worse is for us to squander this moment, this golden opportunity,” he said.
“I have always felt that whenever there is a crisis that’s when we see the best of Jamaicans; that coming together to help each other. It’s truly an amazing thing. I am saying, let’s continue that level of spiritedness when there is not a crisis. Let’s learn something from this COVID-19 moment and continue to build, continue to collaborate in the interest of Jamaica,” he added.
Mr. Byles, who is Executive Deputy Chairman of Chukka Caribbean Adventures, was addressing a recent function in honour of Appleton Estate and the world’s first female Master Blender, Joy Spence, at the Half Moon Hotel in St. James.
Mr. Byles, who is also a Director of the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), and Vice President of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), said that coming out of the crisis is the opportunity for Jamaica and the wider global community to prepare or a “customer that will be…much different than we have been used to.”
He noted that shortly after travelling came to a halt in the spring of 2020, destinations dependent on tourism had to quickly figure out ways to implement enhanced health and safety protocols to once again welcome visitors and Jamaica was among the first to receive the World Travel & Tourism Council’s (WTTC) ‘Safe Travels’ stamp.
The Stamp allows travellers to recognise governments and companies around the world that have adopted health and hygiene global standardised protocols.
“Jamaica was [among] the first of the WTTC-certified operators. We did this back in June 2020. When the world was pretty much stopped, we opened our doors with this programme and with all the operators certified,” Mr. Byles said.
The Ministry of Tourism also put into place several measures, including the resilient corridors, which have proven to be successful and have been instrumental in the recovery of the sector.
The resilient corridors, include various areas of the island where strict protocols are adhered to and employees are strategically trained on the procedures, which include mask wearing, sanitisation and temperature checks.
“When Jamaica climbed in its COVID-19 positivity, we found that the rate of everyone in the corridor remained at this very low level, which is a testament to the fact that the protocols…work once they are being done in a disciplined and constructive manner,” Mr. Byles said.
He noted that the protocols are designed to be seamless so as not to disrupt the vacation experience.
“Everybody is trained. It’s a consistent approach. You find that at the airport, on the buses, you are following the protocols of mask wearing and sanitisation and when you get into the hotels, it is the same thing,” Mr. Byles said.
He noted that the corridors have enabled visitors to experience the island in a safe manner, arguing that day’s traveller is not content with just staying within the confines of a hotel and enjoying the on-property amenities but “wants to get out… wants to go to restaurants, wants to be out and about on tours, and to enjoy everything Jamaica has to offer.”
Mr. Byles pointed out that the rise in tourist arrivals, as is evident by the more than impressive start to the winter tourist season, is proof that persons have not lost their appetite for travelling and continue to see Jamaica as a preferred destination.
Prior to arriving in Jamaica, or even boarding a flight to the destination, all visitors must have an approved travel authorisation document.
Travellers must also present negative results from a COVID-19 molecular test (Polymerase Chain Reaction PCR; Nucleic Acid Amplification NAA; Ribonucleic acid RNA) or antigen test within three days of arrival.