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Tourism stakeholders are calling for a more unified national COVID-19 response between public and private-sector entities, arguing that anything less could be self-defeating and counterproductive.

Speaking at a Jamaica Information Service (JIS) Think Tank at the agency’s Regional Office in Montego Bay, St. James, on August 31, the sector players argued that what the country currently needs is a cohesive message where everybody is singing with one voice and where the tried and proven health and safety guidelines established by the Government can be strengthened.

They further pointed out that while other entities, such as the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association (JMA) and the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) have been playing an admirable role in establishing protocols and best practices within their own organisations, “it would be great” if it is done in a more concerted way where tourism and the “magnificent” work being done on the resilient corridors are incorporated.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could find a constructive way where the protocols that the tourism industry and the corridors have put in place become a part of the national equation?” Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Chukka Caribbean Adventures, Marc Melville, asked.

“I would love if we can all get together where we could lay out the extensive research we have done in putting the corridors together… and where the practices can be adopted or incorporated as part of a national response in tackling a pandemic that clearly has a mind of its own,” he said.

Mr. Melville said that while he understands that everybody is trying their best to play their part and do what they think is right, it should be remembered that tourism workers have been on the front line and were there “before everybody else” and are, therefore, in a unique position to “share the experience”.

President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Omar Robinson, said that a more unified approach would guarantee stronger enforcement and a better appreciation of the new mantra of “see something, say something, do something”.

“I am sure all of the different private-sector groups have their protocols, but what we are saying is that let us do this thing together where we can make an invaluable input, based on our experience and our daily interaction with guests,” Mr. Robinson added.

“This is something we do day in and day out and where we cannot afford to take a break. Tourism is Jamaica’s main industry… the main engine of growth. The Government has taken the tough decision to reopen the borders, so it is our responsibility to see that the protocols work and to always be cognisant of the fact that if we fail… then we would also be failing the country,” he said.

Mr. Robinson further revealed that talks have been initiated with different private-sector organisations and that he is confident that a more cohesive approach is in the making going forward.

The COVID-19 Resilient Corridors is a Government of Jamaica-initiated concept that was developed to protect citizens, whilst restarting a much-needed phased tourism recovery through tightly managed and enforced protocols in controlled geographic spaces. Of equal importance, the corridors also give health authorities the ability to trace and contain the movement of visitors.

To date, three such corridors are in operation: The north coast (seaward side) from Negril to Port Antonio; The south coast with specific locations from Bluefields Bay in Westmoreland, eastward to Treasure Beach in St. Elizabeth and Mandeville; and New Kingston and its environs.

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