Sun | Jul 5, 2020

Hoteliers back pretesting of tourists

Published:Monday | May 25, 2020 | 12:17 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer
Omar Robinson, president fo the JHTA.
Omar Robinson, president fo the JHTA.

WESTERN BUREAU:

Pitching a working timeline of four to six weeks for the reopening of the tourism industry, the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) says it fully supports the pretesting of guests. The group also backs the wearing of masks by tourists.

The lobby, which last weekend called for the Government to set a timeline for the reopening of the industry, said these were two of the main areas of focus being proposed as part of the Tourism Task Force committee, led by Wilfred Baghaloo.

Admitting that pretesting was not fool-proof, the association’s president, Omar Robinson, said it may not eliminate the risk associated with COVID-19 but may reduce it significantly, while the wearing of masks by visitors would be in line with the recommendations made by the United States-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Jamaican Government.

The 30-page protocol, which is still to be approved by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, is expected to be ready by May 31.

HOPES OF REOPENING

The sector is harbouring hopes of reopening by June 15, even with a token number of guests.

“A number of all-inclusive hotels have reported a fair amount of bookings for the month of June. Airlines have also expressed an interest in starting in June,” Robinson confirmed to The Gleaner, adding that the tourism entities will be guided by a raft of protocols in order to provide a safe environment for their employees to return to work.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is now being sourced through a partnership with the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA), he revealed, noting that retraining of the workers has already started in some cases. “Our hospitality sector is touchy-feely; our people will not be able to hug and will have to learn how to smile with their eyes,” he said.

Citing the paradigm of a “new hospitality”, the JTA president argued that a hard timeline would “allow us to plan so that we can work backwards by implementing the required safety protocols, acquiring the necessary personal protective equipment, ( i.e., masks, shields, infrared thermometers), training of the employees on these protocols, along with a general sensitisation of the public and our international partners and potential guests”.

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett said that he understood the reason for the appeal by hotel interests but did not feel unduly pressured by the influential group.

“As the number one foreign exchange earner, the country’s economy is driven by tourism,” Bartlett said yesterday, adding that the sector provided around 300,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Last year alone, Jamaica earned US$3.7 billion from the tourism industry.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com