As hoteliers prepare for the opening of the country’s borders to international travellers next week, people in a number of other sectors say they are eager to return to work as the Government moves to rehabilitate the economy which has been battered by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“My members are ready and looking forward to getting back to work,” Junior Lawrence, president of the Jamaica Union of Travellers Association (JUTA) Montego Bay Chapter, is quoted in a news release from the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association’s communications firm.
“We have been out of work for too long. This pandemic struck without warning and the transport sector does not earn enough for us to have put away anything. We have loans to pay, and though some of the conventional banks have given a moratorium on payments, we will soon have to start paying them back,” Lawrence said.
“The ground transport operators have a direct relationship to the lifeblood of Jamaica, and it is vital that we reopen now. When someone jumps on a JUTA, that is direct dollars that a driver can pay his bills, go to the supermarket and the gas station, look after his family, his wife could go to the hairdresser,” Lawrence added.
In preparation for the opening, Lawrence said his association is putting things in place to sensitise members about safety protocols when interacting with guests.
“We have sanitiser dispensers in our offices, drivers have personal masks and even have disposable masks that can be given to our passengers where they forget or misplace theirs,” he explained.
Jamaica’s borders were closed to all incoming travellers on March 21 following the coronavirus outbreak in the country. The first case was recorded on March 10.
The tourism sector, which contributed approximately US$3.7 billion to the economy from 4.3 million arrivals last year, directly employs 170,000 people and provides indirect income to another 200,000.
The sector has been hard hit by the closure, losing approximately US$15 million daily, and workers, who have been laid off, are now reeling from the absence of income.