Chairman of the Tourism Enhancement Fund, Hon. Godfrey Dyer said the tourism industry was one of the worst impacted sector, after the deadly COVID-19 virus hits Jamaica in March 2020. However, since the loosening of the curfew measures in recent weeks, he said the industry has been experiencing massive changes.
These statements were made in a live Mckoy’s News exclusive interview on Saturday.
“[There was a] significant negative impact over 2020 and the beginning of 2021 but happily things are changing. Things start picking up very good… both numbers and income are looking very good and the rest of the year looks as if it’s going to be very positive. We are certainly gonna’ have a very good winter [tourist season], assuming that COVID doesn’t gets worst;” he chuckled in response.
It’s widely known that a major aspect of tourists’ attractions in Jamaica is the vibrant and colourful entertainment the country offers. With the entertainment sector listed among the most severely impacted groups due to the pandemic, Mr. Dyer said that hoteliers were still able to provide this service to tourists within the hotels.
“There is a number of entertainment within the hotels, provided by local people as well; so there will be a fair amount of entertainment within the hotel. [However], I think outside of the hotel, it’s still going to be limited unless we start seeing better improvement but [with] the limited amount, people will still participate;” Mr. Dyer stated.
In addition to the foreseeable positive impacts, the Chairman said the sector is already seeing changes in the tourism labour force since the governments’ gradual reopening of the country but prior to, the impact was “negative.”
“Prior to, it was very negative during the COVID tight era but that too is gradually opening up and things are getting better. More and more [craft vendors] are getting involved;” he said.
According to Dyer, the winter tourist season is also believe to receive a significant boost as most tourists entering the island are already fully vaccinated or required to follow strict COVID-19 protocols.
“Most of them coming in are vaccinated but the ones that are not vaccinated have to take a test before they come and they are restricted to what we call the resilient corridor; which is along the north coast from Negril to Port Antonio. So they move along the resilient corridor which is enough for them…so there is still a lot for them to do;” Mr. Dyer noted.
However, the Chairman agreed that with a boost in the local vaccination process in Jamaica, the increase in returning residents and tourists visiting the island will certainly guaranteed an upsurge in travel.
“If people know a country is highly vaccinated, they feel more confident in coming here. So one of the things that Jamaica has to do is ensure that we get vaccines in adequate supplies and that our nationals will take up the offer of getting vaccinated;” he added.
His calls came on the heels of Foreign Affairs Minister, Kamina Johnson Smith, confirming earlier today that 300,000 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines will arrive in Jamaica on Friday.
This therefore means that with the positive forecasted growth by Tourism Enhancement Fund Chairman, it is quite possible that the Jamaica winter tourist season will definitely be booming this year.
Mr. Dyer also shared that with this highly anticipated growth, he is mostly looking forward to the impact this change will make on Jamaican citizens.
“I’m hoping it will touch the lives of many more people because our tourism workers have suffered for a longtime and I’m hoping that most, if not all of them will be able to regain employment during this period;” he highlighted.
This is due to the fact that Mr. Dyer believed that the “loss of jobs is one of the most negative impact we [the industry] have had, plus owners of hotels and attractions have lost a lot of money over the period as well;” the Chairman added.
However, Tourism Minister Hon. Edmund Bartlett disclosed that over 80 per cent of the country’s tourism workers who were laid off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are now back at work and a total of 170,000 people are directly employed.
These statements were made in the minister’s address in parliament in June 2021.
Natasha Williams- Mckoy’s Senior Writer