Ministry targets 170,000 tourism workers for vaccination
As the ministry kick-started a vaccination drive to have 170,000 industry workers vaccinated yesterday, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett attempted to walk back comments made two weeks ago because of pushback on the domestic front.
Two weeks ago, he had indicated that the Government supported the insistence of cruise ship interests that they do not want passengers interacting with unvaccinated tourism and transport stakeholders. This angered some vendors and transport operators forced out of a bubble as Ocho Rios received the island’s first cruise call in more than a year.
Bartlett also called for all categories of tourism workers, including drivers, craft vendors, and attractions staff, to get vaccinated to boost visitor confidence.
“No cruise passenger will go to any attraction that is not COVID-certified by TPDCo and the JTB and have licences to operate as per the amusement licence requirements of the local government, industry,” the minister said then.
Yesterday, Bartlett said that persons who do not have a COVID-compliant licence are not stopped from getting their licence to operate a business in the industry.
“However, it’s important that they know that the market will go for people who have the COVID-compliant seal,” clarifying his previous statement, adding that more than 2,000 companies were already COVID-compliant.
Bartlett said that the aim is not to have vaccination mandated, but taken voluntarily.
Among the persons being targeted in the Tourism Worker Vaccination Drive are workers in hotels, villas and guest houses, attractions, airports, cruise ports, craft markets as well as ground transportation operators.
According to Bartlett, the success of the initiative is the key to tourism’s recovery.
The drive, which officially started at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, will move to Sandals Negril on Thursday, September 2, and Moon Palace Ocho Rios on Friday, September 3. Plans for Montego Bay, Port Antonio and the south coast are to be finalised.
Moon Palace is headed by president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Clifton Reader, who is aiming to have 1,000 tourism workers vaccinated on Friday.
Two weeks ago, Reader told The Gleaner that approximately 55 per cent of his staff were already vaccinated, with some 330 of them taking the jab on August 18 during a Vax Day campaign.
The initiative also comes at a pivotal time with the third wave of the pandemic causing jitters locally and internationally, and some hotels seeing cancellations and a reduction in the pace of bookings for September and October.
“It is our hope that with the upscaling of the vaccination programme and stricter observance of health and safety protocols islandwide, we can stabilise the market in time for a rebound of the 2021-2022 winter season,” Reader told The Gleaner last week.