Thu | Dec 2, 2021

Tourism stoic amid COVID travel blacklist

Published:Wednesday | September 8, 2021 | 12:10 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer
Clifton Reader, president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association.
Clifton Reader, president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association.

WESTERN BUREAU:

Jamaica’s tourism stake­holders are confident of an early ­reassessment by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a relaxation of its travel advisory urging United States citizens not to visit Jamaica amid spiralling COVID-19 infections and deaths.

The US is Jamaica’s largest source market, and it is not the first time that the island has been classified at Level 4 on the CDC list, a position it now shares with 77 other nations worldwide, including many tourism-dependent countries in the Caribbean.

The latest advisory also warns against travel to Brunei and Sri Lanka.

It is the second time in weeks that the sector has been jolted by advisories issued by source nations, which are themselves battling a new wave of outbreaks.

The United Kingdom’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office advised against non-essential travel to the island, causing a ricochet that saw one of the largest tour operators to the country, TUI, cancelling all its flight here until September 11.

But the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) and the Jamaica Tourist Board are optimistic.

“We are confident that Jamaica’s positivity rate, number of positive cases, and deaths will decrease sufficiently in the coming weeks to prompt an early reassessment by the CDC, reclassification from Level 4, and a relaxation of the travel advisory,” JHTA President Clifton Reader stated on Tuesday.

Admittedly disappointed with the publicity the travel advisory has garnered, Reader said the news could deter travellers from coming to the country, negatively affecting the livelihoods of thousands of tourism workers and families that depend on the industry.

Citing the country’s Resilient Corridor as a global standard of coronavirus protocols, Reader said that the hospitality sector had worked hard to enforce health and safety guidelines.

In the Resilient Corridor, the COVID-19 positivity rate is 1.04 per cent compared to Monday’s overall rate of 28.4 per cent. That was a fall-off from a series of highs in the 40s.

Jamaica has recorded more than 72,800 infections and 1,646 deaths as at September 6.

Reader grounded his assurance on an aggressive vaccination drive, ramped-up public education, and a focus on social distancing, mask wearing, among others.

His optimism is shared by Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett, who argued that the corridor covers more than 85 per cent of the island’s tourism product and includes less than one per cent of the population.

The low infection rate within the corridor, he said, was achieved through the robust protocols developed in conjunction with authorities across the health and tourism sectors.

“These protocols were among the first to receive the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Safe Travels recognition that allowed us to safely reopen in June of 2020,” said Bartlett.

Jamaica recently welcomed its one millionth visitor since reopening to travel in June 2020.