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Executive Director of the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), Dr. Andrew Spencer, is encouraging tourism stakeholders to take full advantage of the sensitisation sessions on the coronavirus (COVID-19) health and safety protocols as they prepare for the reopening of the local industry on June 15.

He said that the protocols will be crucial in protecting workers, tourists and local communities.

“I encourage you to… reap the benefits and learn all that you must in order to ensure a safe tourism sector. I want to emphasise the word ‘safe’ because at this point, more than ever, we have to ensure the safety of our workers first… which should then transcend to looking at the safety of our visitors. What we ensure is that entire spaces within which you operate provide a safe haven,” he said.

Dr. Spencer was addressing day three of the TPDCo tourism sensitisation workshop at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James on Wednesday (June 10). The session was geared towards operators and workers at villas, Airbnb and guest houses.

Dr. Spencer informed that inspection of tourism establishments continues in order to gauge their level of preparedness for reopening.

“Our Product Quality Team is out there looking at the physical plants in which many of you are intended to go back to work, ensuring that the necessary infrastructure is in place and that you have sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) and that all is in place for you our valued tourism workers,” he pointed out.

Businesses will not be allowed to open until they are assessed by the TPDCo. Once the necessary protocols are in place, they will be issued a COVID-19 Resilient Certificate.

Meanwhile, Dr. Spencer told the session that reviving the tourism sector is crucial in “re-energising” the country’s economy and to secure the livelihood of the thousands of displaced tourism workers.

“We have lost close to US$40 billion in earnings and over 300,000 workers continue to face significant challenges. In order to prevent further loss, it was decided that we do a phased reopening, and this begins June 15. We saw it fit to re-energise the economy, one that depends heavily on tourism,” he said.

For her part, Training Officer at the TPDCo, Western Region, Anthia Cookhorne, in outlining the safety protocols to the participants, said they are designed to support consistent standards across the industry and represent the “joint requirements of the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Health and Wellness, Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) and the TPDCo, in collaboration with the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA)”.

“The goal of the Ministry of Tourism’s COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols is to strengthen Jamaica’s resilience to COVID-19 and safeguard all stakeholders within the tourism ecosystem, including workers, communities and tourists,” she highlighted.

Ms. Cookhorne further informed that operators of guest houses/inns, hostels and Airbnb are required to employ a trained COVID-19 Safety Point Person to conduct regular spot checks throughout the property and observe protocols being enacted.

Approximately 300 participants were engaged across two sessions at 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.

On Thursday, June 11, the sessions will target transportation – tours, car rental, contract carriage and operators; on Friday (June 12), craft traders/shops, and on Monday, June 15, attractions – beaches and water sports.

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