Thu | Aug 6, 2020

Growth & Jobs | Embracing the new norm - Small and medium tourism enterprises hopeful about reopening of sector

Published:Tuesday | July 14, 2020 | 12:21 AM
Beulah Kelly (right) of Kelly’s Water Sports makes a point to Gillian Hyde (left), general manager, JN Small Business Loans (JNSBL), and Thelma Yong, deputy general manager, JNSBL, during the Small Business Association of Jamaica MSME Conference at the H
Beulah Kelly (right) of Kelly’s Water Sports makes a point to Gillian Hyde (left), general manager, JN Small Business Loans (JNSBL), and Thelma Yong, deputy general manager, JNSBL, during the Small Business Association of Jamaica MSME Conference at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa in 2017.

Kemilee McLymont-Campbell and her husband, Peter, operators of the 75-room Golf View Hotel in Mandeville, Manchester, are hopeful that the reopening of the tourism sector will bring about an improvement in their current fortunes.

McLymont-Campbell and her husband temporarily ceased operating their 22-year-old hotel in March after the country closed its borders to restrict the spread of COVID-19 in Jamaica. Although reopening on June 8, the Campbells have adopted a wait-and-see approach in terms of how quickly they will be able to rebound from the fallout they suffered during the time they were closed.

“We are cautious, but optimistic at the same time, because we are now in the era of new norms,” said McLymont-Campbell. “We have been deep cleaning our rooms and implementing the necessary safety guidelines. Being out of business has also allowed us to examine how best we can improve and adapt to the changes.”

Co-operator, Peter Campbell, said the pandemic affected all the property’s revenue streams.

“COVID-19 paralysed our operations,” he explained, “It didn’t just affect our overall day-to-day business. It impacted our staff as well because we had to send home all our 32 full-time and 23 part-time employees.”

“Before COVID-19, we would average about 55 per cent occupancy leading up to this time of year, when it would increase as the summer went on. We would also host graduations and other functions as well as offer catering services. This year, we have not been able to do this, and so it has been difficult,” he added.

Campbell pointed out that they have used the time to improve the property and to determine how they could become more efficient.

“We looked at how we could better utilise our staff complement and also refurbish the property. We know the impact of the pandemic will affect us for some time, and we wanted to ensure that we could rebound when the time comes,” he added.

Tracey Lettman-Duncan, operator of the Pineapple Court Hotel in Ocho Rios, St Ann, recently resumed operating her 14-room property at the request of her local guests, after a three-month closure, but had doubts.

“Even though I am very anxious over this COVID19 surge, I am hopeful because I just received the certificate of COVID-19 Protocol Compliant Tourism Entry. I have worked very hard, and with great expediency, to put the necessary protocols in place to ensure the safety of both guests and my staff,” she said.

“The closure affected me very badly because I had to send home all seven persons on my payroll. Prior to our closure, we averaged 60 to 70 per cent occupancy per month. Therefore, you can imagine the impact this has had. I honestly could not have gone on for a third month,” she added.

STILL CLOSED

However, not all members of the sector have been able to reopen their operations. Beulah Kelly, who operates Kelly’s Water Sports with her husband in Montego Bay, said they ceased operations in March after the hotels from which she operated closed.

“The earliest time I was told for reopening, by one of the hotel operators, was October to November while the other one did not give me a time frame. I had to send home all 25 employees, and they have been calling and asking us when we will be resuming since the Government reopened our borders; however, we have to wait on the hotels where we operate,” she said.

“We now have to live with COVID-19, so we just have to protect ourselves, the members of staff, and the guests when the time comes. I have received documents from the Tourism Product Development Company on what protocols to follow, but for now, all we can do is wait and see,” she added.

Gillian Hyde, general manager, JN Small Business Loans, explained that her company has been assisting members of the small and medium tourism enterprises sector in many ways.

“The tourism sector has been impacted significantly by the pandemic. Many SMTEs have been hit hard by this as well. However, we have been assisting them through several of our loan facilities and extending moratoriums as appropriate. We will continue to work with them to ensure they can weather this difficult period,” she stated.

Although the sector is slowly reopening, McLymont-Campbell said that protecting employees is as important as ensuring the safety of guests.

“We are looking forward to embracing this new norm. It is important that everyone in the sector follows protocols because we all have a role to play. Keeping everyone safe should be a priority. It shouldn’t be only about the guests,” she stated.