Jamaica – Stakeholders in the tourism sector have expressed that the recovery of the industry is being driven by the unity among tourism partners, which has been further concretized following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many emphasise that the sector has never been more united.
“I believe that the way that we have been pivoting is due to the fact that the sector has never been as united,” said Managing Partner, Chukka Caribbean Adventure Tours, John Byles. He adds that all subsectors, inclusive of the airports, ground transportation, hotels, attractions, shops, to name a few, “have never communicated at the level that we’ve communicated” to restore the industry.
His view was endorsed by Anup Chandiram, Chairman of the Shopping Network of the Tourism Linkages Network (TLN); Brian Thelwell, President of the Jamaica Co-operative Automobile and Limousine Tours (JCAL) and Vernon Douglas, Chief Financial Officer of the Jamaica Public Service (JPS). They were featured presenters in a virtual forum, held recently, on: “How Tourism has Impacted Other Sectors.” The moderator was Lisa Bell, Managing Director of the Exim Bank. The session is the latest in a five-part online forum series, spearheaded by the TLN’s Knowledge Network.
It was revealed that over 70 licensed attraction operators and more than 5,000 ground transport operators have been impacted negatively by the COVID-19 pandemic. In shopping, many once thriving retail establishments have gone out of business.
Mr. Byles said after suffering major fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, attractions were now tracking at about 45 percent of 2019 levels. He said the sector is recovering steadily, with a sense of confidence returning to the industry, generated by high levels of vaccination in Jamaica’s main source market, the United States, and Jamaica having a strong tourism product.
Sounding an optimistic note for the way ahead, Mr. Byles said the key to success was “coming together and finding ways to improve the overall value of the product. We all are going to win and more importantly, the guests are going to want to come back,” he explained.
In the case of the transportation sector, Mr. Thelwell said it has been forced to scale down drastically. With income for nine months being totally wiped out, many operators have dropped out of the sector, parked or sold their buses and have turned to other activities to survive.
Nevertheless, Mr. Thelwell sees positive signs on the horizon, but said for the sector to be fully prepared when the industry begins to open up more, banks needed to be more lenient with clients with outstanding loans. “Even when the sector comes back it will not be all flourishing right away, it’s going to be gradual progression and persons have obligations that they can’t meet now,” he said.
Speaking for the shopping subsector, Mr. Chandiram said when the industry gets back on its feet “our product must be better than when we closed in March of 2020.” He pointed to strengthening the linkages framework as one of the paths to success in the future. “The fact that we want our visitors to spend their money on services and goods produced in Jamaica that employ Jamaicans, have value added in Jamaica, I see a lot of that happening,” he said.
Mr. Chandiram said standards had to be raised, with many of the shopping centres providing an experiential offering, “so instead of just going to buy goods you go there to experience something unique.” He said this was happening with Main Street Jamaica in Rose Hall, along Montego Bay’s Hip Strip, Island Village in Ocho Rios and was conceptualized for the Artisan Village in Falmouth.