Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, says the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) COVID-19 Ambassador Programme has been instrumental in the promotion and public education of the COVID-19 safety protocols at the community level.
The initiative was launched in October to communicate the practice of the protocols’ four pillars – social distancing, mask wearing, sanitising and hand washing – to communities situated in and around tourism corridors across the country.
This is being done through selected ambassadors who are employed in the accommodation and attractions sectors.
Speaking at Wednesday’s (December 16) launch of the JHTA Negril Chapter of the COVID-19 Ambassador Programme, at the Sandy Haven Resort, Mr. Bartlett emphasised the initiative’s importance.
“The public education side of it we cannot just leave to the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. Tourism has to take on much of that, and I am very pleased that the ambassador programme has come in to fill that void,” the Minister said.
“Public education is not just about TV appearances and speeches or flyers going out and zooming messages here and there. It is about involvement, making people feel, see, touch and understand what needs to be done and how it is to be done,” he added.
Mr. Bartlett said the Ministry embraces fully the programme that has already received 10,000 masks from the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF).
He noted that another 10,000 masks have since been committed to ensure that communities that are among and within the tourism corridors are the first in line to get served.
“So, this is a very powerful move and I want to reiterate our commitment and support [and] for us to put more investment into COVID-19 equipment to be handed out in those communities,” Mr. Bartlett said.
“These are the communities that are the drivers of our action and suppliers of our experiences. It is where the visitor goes and gives value to tourism. So, if those communities are not safe, then tourism is not safe,” he added.
For his part, President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Clifton Reader, indicated that the programme has, so far, been launched in Ocho Rios, Kingston and Montego Bay.
He said COVID-19 Ambassadors are highly trained and are organising their communities to better protect themselves and the tourism sector.
“We aim to do virtual training with them [in the Negril communities] as well, and the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) has partnered with us to do the virtual training. So, it is a pleasure to be here to launch this programme, which is a partnership programme with every single [stakeholder] and agency in Negril and in Jamaica,” Mr. Reader said.