Open but not operating at optimal –That appears to be one assessment from the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association on the performance of some properties some six weeks after Jamaica opened its borders to international visitors.
However, there is much optimism that the country’s tourism sector is resilient and will rise again.
In this week’s episode of Beyond the Crisis we take another look at the tourism sector and how the phased reopening of an industry critical to the local economy has been unfolding.
Tourism was one of the sectors that literally ground to a halt due to the impact of COVID-19. Hotels on the main tourism belt were closed and thousands of workers were laid off.
By May, tourism players were clamoring the government to announce a date for the reopening of the country’s borders so they could properly plan when and how the business would restart.
The Tourism Ministry and its partner agencies were at the same time moving to hammer out a full proof series of health and sanitation protocols to ensure the protection and safety of guests and workers amidst the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to wreak havoc across several countries including Jamaica’s main tourism markets of United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
Then the green light came…June 15 would be the day Jamaica reopened to international guests who were perhaps anxious to leave lockdown and quarantine back home to enjoy Jamaica’s sun sea and sand. It was also helpful that Jamaica’s response and management to the pandemic has received an international endorsement.
Now some six weeks later the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association is reporting that 15 percent of the business is now operational with employment levels only back to 9 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels.
The JHTA has reported that properties continue to stare down the barrel of serious financial challenges. Most businesses need to achieve 60 percent occupancy in order to just break even. The association says occupancy levels now range between 10 and 35 percent.
This means the properties that have still not reopened continue to lose money and those that have opened are incurring millions of dollars in operating expenses with the aim of attracting more guests and be able to break even.
The economic recovery taskforce has opined that the fastest route to Jamaica’s recovery will be the bounce back of the tourism sector.
Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett spoke with us recently about the number of visitors to the island since the reopening and projections for the end of the summer period.
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