Jamaica tourism chiefs have insisted that COVID protocols will remain in place for some time to come as part of plans to create a safe environment for international visitors.
The President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, Clifton Reader, said while the threat of COVID may be easing, there is no room for complacency.
Speaking at a tourism briefing, he stressed it was vital that Jamaica could sell itself as a safe destination.
“Our minister of tourism said to us that we are no longer inside the tunnel looking for the light, we are outside the tunnel,” Mr Reader said. “Tourism is open and ready in Jamaica.
“But even though we are outside the tunnel we have to realise that COVID is something we are going to have to live with. It may be the new flu going forward, but we have to maintain the protocols, what we call the four pillars.”
Those four pillars are mask wearing, physical distancing, sanitizing and hand washing, Mr Reader said.
“Those four things saved us before the vaccines so now there must be a combination of [those four pillars], vaccinating the population, and making sure that our teams get to 70% vaccination rates or above, so that we can sell Jamaica as a safe destination and somewhere you can enjoy without worrying too much that you will get infected.”
He revealed that 62% of hotel staff are now vaccinated along with 59% of attractions staff and 40% of transportation employees.
This increasing vaccination rate is driven by the return of cruise ships which have ‘certain demands’, he said.
Jamaica Director of Tourism Donovan White described the protocols as a ‘critical’ aspect of its tourism recovery.
“We have maintained a very diligent focus on our protocols, demonstrating all the time that we care about the people coming to our country and we care about people who serve the industry,” he said. “We have spared no effort to make sure that everyone that comes to Jamaica enjoys the best of what we have to offer in the safest possible environment in the most seamless way.”
Mr White said the country is ‘well on the way to a strong recovery’.
He told the briefing that business for the next two months is almost back to 2019 levels..
“Our top five tour operators and airline partners provide Jamaica with about 70% of our total room nights sold annually and bookings for November and December are already at 95% and 97% respectively in terms of 2019 levels of room nights sold,
“It is a phenomenal the level of growth that we are beginning to see.”