The new norm for tourism

Beach in Jamaica with tall palm tree on Caribbean sea

Hoteliers in Negril are sharing mixed views regarding the planned reopening of the country’s borders on June 15 to international travellers.

In announcing the reopening of borders, last week, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said that people arriving on the island would have the option of getting tested; however, screening will be mandatory.

Although some business owners will be reopening on June 15, others are hesitant and plan to wait until later to restart their operations as they are still uncomfortable.

RICHARD WALLACE, OPERATOR

“I believe that we must get back to work at some point before things get terrible. The Government has offered some assistance to the country, but based on my understanding, there is no more money to continue the COVID Allocation of Resources for Employees (CARE) Programme.

At some point, we have to get back to work. Otherwise, we are going to have other things to worry about.

It’s excruciating to see staff who lost their revenue stream being uncertain if they will have jobs when the industry opens up and with so many people dependent on tourism, it has taken a toll on the mental health of many.

Money and health go hand in hand, but that does not mean we must open up recklessly. We must find a way forward.

Wallace is of the belief that before guests arrive at the resorts, they would have already undergone a series of screenings.

At Boardwalk Village, we have already started putting things in place. Sanitisation stations have been erected at various points on the property, beach chairs and dining room chairs have been set out to social distancing standards, staff are being equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE) and temperature checks will also be carried out.

We have to find a way to live with it, because COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon, even if a vaccine is developed.

Based on surveys conducted, Negril stands a chance to be the number one destination of choice when travel resumes.

The surveys highlight that when travel resumes people prefer to visit beach destinations and to stay in smaller resorts with 100 rooms or less. Negril is a seaside town with the highest number of small resorts in Jamaica.

“I don’t think it will take us a long time to return to the four million tourists mark.”

ANGELA EASTWICK, OWNER

“At this point, I believe that there is not much more we can do as it regards containing the virus.

“We also cannot force anyone to get tested. What we can hope is that each person coming will be considerate and not travel if they are ill.

I don’t expect us to immediately get the influx of guest we had before. We have to face certain questions if we open. Which staff do we keep? How many staff do we keep on? How much inventory do we purchase, without losing more money than we have already lost?”

“It’s like we are having a second reopening. We usually do our repairs and renovations during the slow period, right at the end of the hurricane season. What if we do these renovations now, and then we get a hurricane, that will be more money spent. It is all so confusing.”

Our four apartment villa is currently accepting guests for accommodation, but the bar and restaurant will remain closed until June 15.

“It will not be business as usual as there are new measures in place to safeguard the staff as well as the guests while they are on property.”

COLETTA ARTHURS — AIRBNB OPERATOR

“I am fearful due to the lack of protocols stipulated but I respect people who take personal responsibility during these times.

A friend who returned to the island recently opted to take the Government quarantine, even though his test result returned negative. He said he wasn’t going to take any chances because he had a four-year-old son at home. I respect people who prevent the spread.

I am afraid of people who are asymptomatic, and if I get reservations, I will just have to ensure that all precautions are taken but for sure room service will not be offered.”

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