Don’t close down the borders, tourism stakeholders urge

Large and small operators in the tourism sector are appealing to the Government to avoid another lockdown of the nation’s borders, arguing that any such measure would have a disastrously damaging effect on the lives of hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans and the economy in general.

“Let us not be tempted or be swayed into closing the borders down again. That would be suicidal for many of us, especially craft traders and our families,” president of the Ocho Rios Craft Markets Association, Devon Mitchell, is quoted in a news release issued last Thursday.

According to Mitchell, the past six months — especially during the period when the country’s borders were closed to international travel — brought craft traders to “the brink of extinction”.

“We have never been this hard hit. To be honest with you, we are not prepared emotionally, mentally and financially to go through anything like that again… at least not any time soon,” said a passionate Mitchell, who is also president of the Dunn’s River Craft Association.

“Like everybody else we have undergone the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) training at great cost and time to our members. We have put all the health protocols and safety guidelines in place so we can safely and peacefully operate within the resilient corridor. We are imploring the next Government to be confident in the system and allow the protocols to work,” Mitchell said.

Three Tourism Resilient Corridors were created ahead of the reopening of the island’s borders to international passengers in order to ensure the safety of Jamaicans and visitors. In the three corridors on the northern and southern coasts, and New Kingston, tourism businesses must be certified by TPDCo for having implemented all the COVID-19 prevention protocols. The businesses are also subject to surveillance and enforcement to ensure compliance.

Operators in the corridors have repeatedly insisted that the system is working, as there have been no incidents of COVID-19 infection among workers employed to hotels, attractions, visitor transportation companies, craft markets, tourist shopping centres and other entities.

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