Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Tourism sector braces for Matthew

Published:Sunday | October 2, 2016 | 10:00 AM
Visitors to the island enjoying the sunshine on the streets of Montego Bay as the tourism sector braces for Matthew.

As the country braces for Hurricane Matthew, the Ministry of Tourism has activated Tourism Emergency Operations Centres (TEOC) at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston and the Altamont West in Montego Bay, St James.

In addition to being the official sources of information for the tourism sector, the centres will disseminate warnings and bulletins received from the National Emergency Operations Centre; analyse and evaluate all data pertaining to emergency operations within the tourism sector, as well as update local and international media.

Already the international news agency ABC Florida is on the island, with NBC and BBC teams expected to arrive today to provide coverage of the system, which is expected to begin impacting the island late today into tomorrow.

Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett, who is overseas on business, has given assurance that his ministry and its agencies have taken all necessary precautions and are well prepared for the eventuality of a hurricane.

"The TEOCs will provide important and timely information to stakeholders in the sector. I encourage all our tourism partners and Jamaicans in general to heed the hurricane warnings issued by the relevant authorities and take all the necessary precautions to keep safe during the possible passage of Hurricane Matthew," said Bartlett.

 

Emergency services

 

In the meantime, a number of the island's hoteliers have activated their emergency services by securing their guests and furniture.

The Royal DeCameron Club Caribbean in Runaway Bay has moved its guests from the beachfront to the rear of the property. The hotel has also made arrangements with Cardiff Hotel (formerly the Heart Academy) to accommodate some of its guests.

The north tower at Moon Palace Jamaica Grande has been moved to the south tower and the lower floors of the 720-room resort.

Checks made with Bahia Principe in St Ann revealed that a number of guests from overseas were still expected at check in yesterday and there were no relocations.

"We have a hurricane policy that speaks to cancellations, so our guests are already aware. We also have a distress rate that is applied in the event that they can't leave as planned," the resort's social relations manager, Farrah Blake, told The Sunday Gleaner.

According to Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association president, Omar Robinson, all the large hotels have manuals which speak to a four-phased plan during a hurricane.

"Before the start of a hurricane season we check inventory of the following items which should be established and stored in one location: lamps, candles, heavy-duty plastic bags, raincoats, water boots, battery-powered radios, batteries, masking and duct tape, sandbags, flashlights, tarpaulin, matches and plyboard," said Robinson.

Up to late yesterday the Sangster International Airport, where most of the island's tourists arrive, remained opened, commercial director Sitara Byfield confirmed.

"At this time, there are no plans to close the airport as we continue to watch the trajectory of Hurricane Matthew. We also have not seen any additional flights at this time or influx of persons leaving the island," said Byfield.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com