Tue | Jan 19, 2021

‘Tough call’ - Tourism dependency a factor in travel ban, says minister

Published:Saturday | March 14, 2020 | 12:00 AM

A downturn in tourism earnings is inevitable whether or not Jamaica imposes travel bans on its major markets in the wake of the global novel coronavirus outbreak, Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton has said.

Speaking at a stakeholders’ meeting in Montego Bay on Friday, Tufton said that some governments have taken measures to restrict travel, on health grounds, which will result in a slowdown or halt in traditional movement.

He said the ministry was mulling over the impact to Montego Bay and resort towns with fragile economies because of tourism dependency.

“It is a tough call for us to make decisions that could affect the extent of your support, and I know that the tourism industry, generally, has begun to feel the effects of this issue. The reality is, though, that the globe has slowed down as it relates to international travel,” said Bartlett, citing the United States barring of all flights from Europe, except for the United Kingdom, for 30 days.

Tufton said that he anticipated that Jamaica’s losses would be short term and that he was banking on the country to rebound based on its resilience to disasters in the past.

MYSTIC MOUNTAIN CLOSED

In the meantime, the haemorrhaging in the tourism industry has started with the closure of at least one major attraction, Mystic Mountain in St Ann. According to Managing Director Mike Drakulich, the attraction will close for the next 30 days because of health and safety concerns.

“Mystic Mountain will examine the COVID-19 situation on or before Easter in consultation with the Ministry of Health to determine when we will reopen based on their guidelines,” Drakulich said in a press statement.

President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, Omar Robinson, also predicted that there will be further contractions within the next few months as two of the island’s major markets, the US and Canada, were restricting travel, but said he was optimistic that the sector would bounce back quickly.

“We have seen a complete rush of cancellations since the US travel advisory came into existence … . The business will come back,” he said.