Sat | Nov 27, 2021

80% of tourism workers back on the job – Bartlett

Published:Monday | June 7, 2021 | 12:08 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer
Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica's minister of tourism, is bullish about the recovery of the industry.
Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica's minister of tourism, is bullish about the recovery of the industry.

WESTERN BUREAU: More than 80 per cent of the island’s tourism workers who were laid off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have returned to work, Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett has disclosed. An average 170,000 people are employed directly...

WESTERN BUREAU:

More than 80 per cent of the island’s tourism workers who were laid off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have returned to work, Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett has disclosed.

An average 170,000 people are employed directly to the tourism industry, which generates the lion's share of Jamaica's foreign exchange and which was stifled when the country closed its borders to incoming passengers in March 2020.

Bartlett made the revelation while predicting that full recovery was in sight as the country shows substantial signs of bouncing back from the devastating blow of coronavirus restrictions, which caused the industry to haemorrhage US$46.3 billion in revenue during the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

The minister said that only are food and beverage, maintenance, housekeeping, front desk, airline representatives, tour operators, reservation agents, and spa personnel on the road to recovery, but more than half a billion US dollars was spent on entertainment with local showbiz partners between January and May 2021.

Commenting on the recovery trend, Montego Bay area chapter chairman of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Nadine Spence, said that the uptick in arrivals has fuelled the job spike.

“With the opening of the borders and the worldwide vaccination programme, specifically, the US market, we are seeing bookings beyond expectations, so workers have re-engaged,” said Spence.

The area chapter chairman argued that some entities have not been able to return to full staff complement because they had not tapped other revenue streams.

Bartlett credited the pace of rebound to “the protocols that we have worked so hard to build” and that it was noteworthy that Jamaica’s tourism industry “COVID protocols had achieved international recognition”.

But some of the gloss on Bartlett’s Resilient Corridor was eroded by a late May 2021 party at Rick’s Cafe, where hundreds of tourists flouted coronavirus safety protocols, which has led to the decertification of the venue and a $1 million fine hanging over the heads of its operators.

Meanwhile, June arrivals have already started strong the first five days with just under 30,000 visitors. Bartlett projects that the month could generate 150,000 arrivals.

The minister said that over the next few weeks, his ministry would be highlighting how tourism’s expenditure propped up other sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing and utilities.

“We want to drive home the point that tourism is not about hotels. It’s about everybody in Jamaica because everybody has an opportunity to be inserted into the value chain at one level or another,” said Bartlett.