Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, says the tourism sector is advanced in its preparation for a phased reopening of the industry, with several entities already putting measures in place to become coronavirus (COVID-19) resilient.
Mr. Bartlett said he was particularly satisfied with the level of readiness of selected properties in Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, where he led a team on a fact-finding tour on Wednesday (June 3).
“I am pleased with what I have seen, and I am confident in the reopening of the tourism sector, that it is being done in a manner that is safe and secure for tourism workers, Jamaican citizens and our visitors overall,” he said, while addressing a digital press conference on Thursday (June 4).
The entities visited to gauge their readiness for reopening were Hospiten, Holiday Inn, Sandals Montego Bay, Donald Sangster International Airport, Coral Cliff/Margaritaville, Deja Resorts and Jamaica Inn.
The Minister informed that the team visited the restaurants and beaches on the properties and it was seen where these facilities are being reconfigured to comply with physical distancing rules.
“We were so impressed too with the type of arrangements that are being made to protect the workers and the personal protective equipment (PPEs) that have already been bought by some [entities]… [where] workers are being given masks, face shields and gloves to wear,” he said.
He noted that some property owners have also acquired equipment for sterilising and sanitising “to make sure that the bed linen is sterilised after the visitor leaves, that the furnishings within the rooms are properly washed down and steamed”, the Minister noted.
Mr. Bartlett further informed that the team will be visiting “a number of other entities and stakeholder groupings over the next few days”, noting that the COVID-compliant entities will be issued with certificates that recognise them as COVID-19-resilient tourism entities and will serve as a “stamp of approval that you are ready for opening in phase one”.
The entities’ level of compliance will be measured against the “very rigorous standards in relation to COVID compliance” that the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) has set, in conjunction with a number of other entities.
In the meantime, it is expected that the first phase of the industry’s resumption will coincide with the reopening of the country’s borders to international travellers on June 15.
On this matter, Minister Bartlett noted that he is mindful of the public sentiments that “we are moving too fast and this will pose a health risk to the Jamaican people”.
However, he assured that the reopening will be “carried out safely and in a way that protects our frontline tourism workers, Jamaican citizens and our visitors”.
“Let me underscore that non-nationals who enter from June 15 will be subject to the same health and risk screening process – temperature checks and symptoms observation – as our nationals,” he said.
Mr. Bartlett further noted that based on screening, if assessed to be high-risk, the visitors will be required to self-quarantine at their destination until the results are available.
Meanwhile, he informed that the estimated loss of direct tourism revenue to the Government, due to COVID-19, for April 2020 to March 2021, is $38.4 billion.
“The estimated overall loss to the economy from visitor expenditure from stopover arrivals is expected to be some $107.6 billion,” he added.