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KINGSTON, Jamaica; July 26, 2021: With the tourism sector maintaining a near 100 percent compliance rate along the Resilient Corridors since the reopening of the nation’s borders to international travel in June 2020, Minister of Tourism, Hon Edmund Bartlett is underscoring the effectiveness of the sector in managing the COVID-19 pandemic.
He credited the relentless effort of the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), working with the Ministries of Health and Local Government in policing the Resilient Corridors and punishing reported breaches over the past year, for enabling the high level of compliance by tourism entities.
Minister Bartlett was speaking on the weekend at the launch of Key Advantage Training & Recruitment Solutions (KATRS), Jamaica’s latest addition to the education and skills training landscape, at the Hilton Hotel in Rose Hall, St. James. The company has targeted the tourism and business process outsourcing (BPO) sectors in particular but also markets its services to the sales and retail industries.
While underscoring the general success of the sector in managing the pandemic Mr. Bartlett highlighted that complacency and breaches will not be tolerated. Being fully aware that other sectors are seeking to introduce systems to manage the coronavirus, he says: “We stand ready to assist in enabling the complete management of the pandemic,” adding that if all come together to drive that level of management, “we will be able to carry through this process of enabling low infection rates.”
The COVID-19 positivity rate within the corridors is at 0.6 percent and the tourism minister is confident that the sector will be able to manage and mitigate the effects of variants when they reach Jamaica. “Tourism has been a responsible partner; we have invested in it and the hoteliers have burnt cash in the last 14 months to try and keep the sector together and the recovery that we are experiencing is a function of that sacrifice; we don’t want to lose that,” said Minister Bartlett.
He said there was still a far way to go, citing that an estimated 125,000 tourism workers are not yet back in their jobs. The tourism industry employs some 175,000 workers, most of whom were displaced when COVID-19 brought international travel to a standstill last year. Over the past six months, 50,000 workers have been reengaged. “We have to move to get back the rest,” said Mr. Bartlett.
“So, we cannot stop the process now; we have to recommit ourselves to the task of going beyond our sector now and to work with the other sectors to make sure that the level of compliance that we have achieved can be achieved for all,” he said.
On the issue of vaccine availability, he said tourism was working on a response with an initiative that could see a designated arrangement finalized for tourism workers to receive their vaccines. The outcome will be known in another week.
In welcoming Key Advantage, Mr. Bartlett said training and development of the human capital, combined with careful and responsible management of the pandemic, were essential. He underscored the importance of people to tourism, and that training and development must be given priority. Since the pandemic restricted face to face contact, he said the Jamaica Centre of Tourism Innovation (JCTI) had trained 28,000 workers virtually.