Tue | Nov 24, 2020

JHTA launches COVID-19 Ambassador programme to fight virus

Published:Monday | October 5, 2020 | 12:09 AMCarl Gilchrist/Gleaner Writer
Jamaica Hotel and Tourism Association President Clifton Reader.
Jamaica Hotel and Tourism Association President Clifton Reader.

The protocol developed and used successfully in hotels by the tourism sector in the COVID-19 fight is being expanded to communities in wider Jamaica, with the launch of the COVID-19 Ambassador programme by the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) on Friday evening at the Moon Palace Jamaica hotel in Ocho Rios.

Newly elected president of the JHTA Clifton Reader, who is also the managing director of Moon Palace Jamaica, said the programme will see hotel employees trained in the protocol, going into communities where they live to train community members in simple procedures such as handwashing, social distancing, mask-wearing and sanitisation.

“Because we believe those four pillars are critical to managing the COVID virus not only in the hotels but, of course, in the communities,” Reader said.

September saw alarming increases in Jamaica’s COVID-19 figures, with deaths jumping from 21 at the end of August to 111 at the end of September. For the same period, infection rate jumped from 2,459 to 6,704.

In comparison, “Since June 15 there isn’t one known case of transmission between staff and guest or vice versa,” in the hotel industry, according to Reader.

“In the hotels, we basically set up such robust COVID protection programme. We now want to bring it out into the communities to basically flatten the curve or stop the spread,” he explained.

“The reason we can do that is because we’re using as ambassadors our team members who live in those communities. It’s not that hotel workers in general will go and flood communities; if you live, for example, in Buckfield, then you will be the ambassador for Buckfield. The hotel can do virtual training from right in their training room, whether it be Boscobel or Riu, Bahia or Moon Palace, we can all use our training material that we develop over time, and they’ve worked!”

At Moon Palace, the Palace Foundation (the hotel’s charity arm) will spearhead the effort, with the foundation from other hotels doing the same. The launch drew representatives from several leading hotel chains, including Couples and Sandals, along with several other industry players.

Reader pointed out that the Ambassador programme is only one of the strategies to keep Jamaica safe, as there are already some very defined policies at the properties, which include sanitising staff and guests, equipment and facilities.

“We are committed to safety and a return to a healthy and vibrant Jamaica,” he added.

Team members involved in the programme are volunteering their service and are not being paid.

One such person is Talcia Peart-Peters, a Moon Palace Foundation coordinator.

“Being one of the ambassadors, I am truly elated and overjoyed because it’s really a privilege that I am able to give back to the community,” Peart-Peters told The Gleaner.

Pointing to the havoc caused by COVID-19, including deaths and loss of income for thousands of persons, Peart-Peters said being able to now help persons to make the right choices to preserve their health is “really very good”.

HOW THE COVID-19 AMBASSADOR PROGRAMME WILL WORK

Each chapter of the JHTA will undertake to educate two to three small communities in their immediate surroundings and where many of their staff members live.

Focus will be on the established protocols that make the biggest difference – mask-wearing, social distancing and handwashing.

All approaches will follow the same path – signage, social media campaign, public gatherings, mobile speakers through the community.

Hotel staff will be the champions of this cause.

The COVID-19 Ambassador programme will partner with TPDCO, Ministry of Health and local parish councils to get the message out.

The programme will begin with a pilot in Ocho Rios and then the best practices will be shared with other JHTA chapters.