A woman walks by a store along Jimmy Cliff Boulevard in Montego Bay, St James, last Friday – Photo: Ashley Anguin

The Sunday Gleaner: KINGSTON, JA – Operators of small hotels and European plan (EP) properties in western Jamaica are feeling the pinch from the Government’s decision to cease COVID-19 testing of visitors at the airports, but instead have tourists undergo a quarantine at their hotels.

According to Robin Russell, chairman of the St James chapter of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), the decision favours all-inclusive properties and has already resulted in a flood of cancellations from guests who were interested in experiencing more of what the island has to offer.

“The reopening started off slowly, until we eventually began to see a steady rise in arrivals. So we moved from five to 10 per cent [occupancy] to 30-40 per cent, and on a good day, it was even higher,” Russell told The Sunday Gleaner last Thursday. “We then saw a rash of cancellations when we stopped testing at the airport and started 14 days’ quarantine on hotel properties.”

He continued: “Jamaica is a destination, not a hotel. People come to Jamaica to experience more than a hotel property. They want to go on tours, visit bars, and visit communities, … so when they are told that they were restricted to property only, we started to see heavy cancellations.”

Data from the Ministry of Tourism reveals that 28,656 tourists arrived in the island between June 15 and July 20.

Russell, the general manager of Deja Resorts on Jimmy Cliff Boulevard – the Second City’s famed Hip Strip – says his operation, like other EP properties, has been greatly affected by the quarantine order.

“We are a small property. There is not much to offer for an entire vacation,” he added.

GREATER COMMUNITY INTERACTION

Hotel Mockingbird

Unlike all-inclusive hotels that price and provide food, entertainment and accommodation services as one, EP hotels give allowance for greater community interaction with visitors.

“It is an unfortunate reality that the phased opening will impact stakeholders differently,” Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett told The Sunday Gleaner. “First, only licensed and COVID-compliant properties operating within the defined COVID-resilience corridor are allowed to operate. So the ability to procure and implement the COVID security equipment and PPEs (personal protective equipment) will determine who opens and the visitors access.”

He added: “Testing protocols wouldn’t be a factor as both all-inclusive and EP hotels, small or large, will be affected equally.”

Russell confirmed reports that some visitors were refusing to abide by the safety protocols to lessen the likelihood of spreading the coronavirus.

“Our members have reported that some guests are not willing to abide by the rules and there has been an instance or two of unruly behaviour, but this is in the minority,” the JHTA chapter president said. “The majority are cooperating and our workers are doing what must be done to protect themselves and our guests.”

Bartlett admitted it was a concern, but told our news team that his ministry’s marketing campaign had been pushing messages to encourage visitors to adhere to the protocols. Further, he said, the risk was “mitigated by the strict adherence to the stay-in-zone order, so the tourists can only be on property”.

For several days last week, The Sunday Gleaner observed that the Elegant Corridor and the Hip Strip in the tourism capital lacked the usual buzz and only workers were seen milling around along the Norman Manley Boulevard in Negril. Workers, but no tourists in sight.