Mon | May 25, 2020

Trelawny JUTA operators get ready to ride COVID-19 waves

Published:Wednesday | April 1, 2020 | 12:14 AMLeon Jackson - Hospitality Jamaica Writer

Uriah Rose, JUTA operator, stands next to his bus.
Uriah Rose, JUTA operator, stands next to his bus.

A significant number of Trelawny-based transport operators in the tourism industry who borrowed to purchase buses in 2019 say even before the coronavirus crisis they were having difficulties paying their loans.

A group of drivers, which received $630 million from the Trelawny Co-operative Credit Union, told Hospitality Jamaica that they now find themselves in a situation where they are unable to service their loans.

Dawn Henry, president of The Falmouth Chapter of the Jamaica Union of Transport Association (JUTA), who replayed the plight of her 300 members, said, “Things started to go bad in January when unseasonal weather forced cruise ships to dock elsewhere than Falmouth. In one week seven ships could not dock. It got progressively worse and COVID-19 has driven a death knell into the earnings of the members.”

She said they are now going to their respective lending institutions to work out a solution to prevent seizure of their vehicles as they now become delinquent.

She is however optimistic that the stimulus package announced by the Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr Nigel Clarke, and further articulated by Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett provided a glimmer of hope.

“Minister Bartlett has promised that attention will be paid to the plight of people involved in tourism and who are affected by COVID-19. I am optimistic that however small the members will get some relief.”

NON-COMMITTAL

In response to queries by Hospitality Jamaica to the credit union, that organisation’s manager, Winston Tomlinson, on how his institution will deal with the situation, he was non-committal.

“I can’t promise anything (TCCU) is a ­members’ organisation. They have elected a board to represent them. I am confident the board has the interest of the members at heart.”

He, however, noted that it was not the first time that closures have affected the members negatively.

“It happened when Trelawny Beach Hotel closed. More recently, the two sugar factories Hampden and Long Pond ceased operating. We rode those storms then and the organisation which is in its 54th year will once again ride out this one.”