MONTEGO BAY, St James —The Ministry of Tourism says all the stops are being pulled to, as soon as possible, resurrect Jamaica’s multi-billion-dollar tourism industry which, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, through direct, indirect and induced avenues, employs over 350,000 Jamaicans, representing about a quarter of the nation’s labour force.
Since the sector has been brought to its knees by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett and key members of his team have been working around the clock, whether it is by videoconferencing on Microsoft Teams, Zoom or Skype, discussing developments, strategies and actions focused on reviving the industry.
“We are all aware of the global impact that COVID-19 is having on economies and livelihoods. Tourism, in particular, has been severely impacted based on travel and related industries grinding to a halt. Nevertheless, we recognise that tourism must be the ‘first out the blocks’, so to speak, as the sector remains critical to the country’s economy and that remains our focus as we try to navigate this global crisis,” Bartlett pointed out in a release yesterday.
Last month Bartlett established a large COVID-19 Tourism Recovery Taskforce with a public-private sector collaboration consisting of key stakeholders from the tourism sector, the ministry of tourism, and agencies of the ministry.
“The task force brings about a realistic view of the sector’s baseline or starting position; develop scenarios for multiple versions of the future; establish the strategic posture for the sector as well as a broad direction of the journey back to growth; establish actions and strategic imperatives that will be reflected across various scenarios; and establish trigger points to tackle action, which includes a planned vision in a world that is learning to evolve rapidly,” Bartlett stated.
The task force, chaired by Bartlett with Permanent Secretary Jennifer Griffith as deputy, includes: hoteliers Adam Stewart, Josef Forstmayr, Lee Issa and Kevin Hendrickson; attraction leaders, John Byles and Marilyn Burrowes; chairman of the Jamaica Tourist Board, John Lynch, chairman of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), Godfrey Dyer, chairman of the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), Ian Dear, president of the Port Authority of Jamaica, Professor Gordon Shirley, director of Tourism, Donovan White; Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association executives, Omar Robinson, Nicola Madden Greig and Wayne Cummings; Senior Advisor/Strategist Delano Seiveright; CEO of the Sangster International Airport, Shane Munroe; Professor Lloyd Waller; the executive directors of TEF, TPDCo and JAMVAC, among several other leading tourism stakeholders. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ senior partner, Wilfred Baghaloo is co-piloting the overall effort.
Seiveright noted that since COVID-19 gained prominence in China and began to top news stories, as early as January “Minister Bartlett initiated discussions with partners locally and internationally and began huddling with Griffiths, Lynch, White and other team leaders as it was just not looking good”.
“When it arrived in a big way in Europe it was clear that things would change forever,” Seiveright noted.
He underscored that the pandemic has highlighted that the tremendous linkages of the tourism sector run farther than many people realised.
“Since the crisis people are now realising the hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans who earn from tourism. Farmers, big and small; fishermen, entertainers, wedding planners, taxi drivers, bus drivers, craft vendors, in-bond merchants, AirBnB providers, food and drink suppliers; manufacturers, airport and seaport workers; chefs, security, gardeners, cannabis providers, the whole works. It basically is a non-ending line of people and most were quietly doing their thing. Now that the lid is off everyone is exposed—formal and informal,” Seiveright said.
He noted that the task force, which meets via videoconference formally and informally on a regular basis, is preparing recommendations on the way forward.
“All our tourism partners are fully on board with our efforts to lessen the impact of this pandemic and effectively strategise our recovery. As to when things ultimately will open up, that’s a decision of Prime Minister Andrew Holness and his Cabinet. It’s a rocky road but frankly Jamaica will come out shining, that’s a guarantee,” Seiveright pointed out.
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