Sat | Oct 23, 2021

Golding tourist vax plan gets thumbs down

Published:Friday | September 3, 2021 | 12:11 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer
Tourists arrive at the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay on Thursday. Tourism interests have given the thumbs down to Mark Golding’s recommendation that all tourists be vaccinated.
Tourists arrive at the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay on Thursday. Tourism interests have given the thumbs down to Mark Golding’s recommendation that all tourists be vaccinated.

WESTERN BUREAU: Tourism interests have poured cold water on Opposition Leader Mark Golding’s call for the Government to insist on COVID-19 vaccination of all visitors. President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Clifton Reader,...

WESTERN BUREAU:

Tourism interests have poured cold water on Opposition Leader Mark Golding’s call for the Government to insist on COVID-19 vaccination of all visitors.

President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Clifton Reader, said he supports the maintenance of a mandate of COVID-negative results for travellers who are not vaccinated.

Those tests should be no older than 48 hours, and quarantine restrictions, where applicable, should be imposed, Reader said on Thursday.

Currently, travellers are allowed entry within 72 hours of testing.

Golding, in a message to the nation on Tuesday, hinted at mandatory vaccination, stating that the control of the borders, particularly the airports, was ineffective.

“With our healthcare system crumbling, it is time to insist that all visitors to our shores are vaccinated. We have to protect our citizens and our country as we fight to get out of this crisis,” he said.

Already, cruise ship passengers to Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean must be vaccinated as part of the protocols implemented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And at least one airline, Sun Wing, which is based in Canada but owns a 49 per cent stake in TUI United Kingdom, announced on Thursday that all its employees must be vaccinated in order to work with their airline.

TUI is one of the largest tour operators selling Destination Jamaica.

The JHTA president noted that research has shown that travellers appeared to be more interested in travelling to Caribbean destinations with strict policies and travel restrictions on COVID-19.

John Byles, vice-president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, who has responsibility for tourism, said that Golding’s recommendation could damage the industry.

Byles cautioned that the countries that instituted vaccine mandates for incoming travellers saw a dramatic fall-off in business.

“Since it is our Jamaican citizens and our family and friends that we are most exposed to based on the level of interaction within our communities, in my layman’s opinion, there is no real upside to that suggestion,” he said.

Byles’ view was supported by the Jamaica Rent A Car Association, whose vice-president, Orville Spence, said he agreed with the maintenance of the current protocols.

The Government requires that all travellers, 12 years of age and over, present a negative COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or antigen test result for flights.

And owner of the country’s newest attraction, Winefield Farm, Marilyn Burrowes, wants Jamaica to return to PCR tests for unvaccinated visitors.

Burrowes, president of the Association of Jamaican Attractions, cautioned that she was not speaking on behalf of the association.

She said there should be strict enforcement of mask wearing by visitors except when they were dining.