The local tourism sector says its expectations for an uptick in visitor arrivals this winter season have been tempered by the Level 4 classification imposed on Jamaica by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“It is something that is basically telling visitors not to come to Jamaica, and by virtue of that it must have some negative impact on our arrivals going into the winter season now,” Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) President Clifton Reader told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
“I have spoken to some of our members, not too long ago, and they are already reporting that they are seeing no-shows… they are seeing cancellations… huge dollar amounts of calculations as well. So, the JHTA, from where we stand, we are going to see negative impact on our arrivals because of this classification,” Reader said.
The United Sates Government’s lead public health agency late last week included Jamaica on a list of more than 180 countries to which Americans should avoid travel if possible, and if they do, to take extra precautions, including testing before departure, wearing masks, and practising social distancing, among other recommendations.
Reader expressed disappointment that the Level 4 classification will also negatively impact the traditional boost in visitor arrivals over the American Thanksgiving holiday.
“Even for the Thanksgiving period here, I know properties that have seen reduction in occupancy. Even in the United States they are saying people must not travel,” he said.
“And I do understand the medical reasoning behind that, but we have to make sure, as the prime minister says, we are balancing lives with livelihoods.”
Reader was hopeful that the CDC would reduce the classification if the number of new COVID cases on the island continues to decrease.
“I understand that if we continue our low figures — because we have been running pretty much under 100 in terms of new cases per day — if we continue that trend then we could see a reversal of that. But one could also say the damage has already been done by publishing us at a Level 4. Yes, there are several other states and countries, but we are talking about Jamaica now, we are protecting the tourism industry. We want our people to come back to work soon,” the JHTA president reasoned.
Delano Seiveright, senior advisor and strategist to the tourism minister, said the CDC classification was expected.
“This comes as no surprise and is in line with most countries globally. Nevertheless, Jamaica is widely regarded as a safe destination. We have firm COVID-19 health and safety protocols, as well as a strict resilient corridor which received formal recognition from the prestigious World Travel and Tourism Council with its ‘Safe Travels’ stamp,” Seiveright pointed out.
“Our COVID-19 health and safety protocols and our north and south coast resilient corridors have allowed us to balance the reopening of borders to tourists, while also maintaining safety for tourism workers, residents and visitors,” Seiveright argued.
On July 28, Prime Minister Andrew Holness stated in Parliament that it was Jamaicans breaching home quarantine, and not tourists, that were the country’s “greatest risk”. He asked the Jamaica Constabulary Force to exercise greater vigilance in monitoring the significant number of Jamaicans not observing home quarantine orders.
He commended the management of the tourism resilient corridor which, he said, has worked quite well, and praised the tourism industry for its compliance with established protocols.