KINGSTON , Jamaica – Jamaica’s minister of tourism, Edmund Bartlett, says tourism stakeholders have responded positively to the government’s stimulus package for the sector, to cushion the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
“The workers of the industry are very heartened by the action of the Government. In fact, they have been indicating their delight that something is being done. We are in the process of working out the details of it, but the feeling is one of hope, and the feeling is one of appreciation of the steps the Government is taking,” he said.
Government relief is being provided under the COVID Allocation of Resources for Employees (CARE) programme. It covers four elements:
- The Business Employee Support and Transfer of Cash (BEST Cash) – which will provide temporary cash transfer to registered businesses that are operating in the hotel, tours, attractions and segments of the industry that are registered with the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), based on the number of workers that they keep employed, who are under the income tax threshold of $1.5 million.
- Supporting Employees with Transfer of Cash (SET Cash) – which will provide temporary cash transfer to individuals where it can be verified that they lost their employment since March 10 (the date of the first COVID case in Jamaica), due to the virus, and this will be available for a specific period.
- A special Soft Loan Fund to assist individuals and businesses that have been hard hit.
- A special COVID-related grant to support the poor and most vulnerable.
Meanwhile, the tourism ministry has been in discussion with key stakeholders in the industry to develop strategies to mitigate the impact of COVID 19.
Bartlett said the discussions, so far, have been fruitful.
He added that the team at the Ministry and the Crisis Management Council are working hard to ensure that Jamaica’s tourism sector recovers quickly.
“Hopefully, at the end of the day, we can come out with a better product and with a better understanding of the new realities.,” the minister said.
In a recent podcast titled ‘Tourism Resilience and Recovery’, Bartlett said the coronavirus (COVID-19) will inevitably subside, but how quickly will depend on guidelines being followed and citizens putting country above selfish impulses.
“As we continue to fight this crisis together, we are reminded that we have been here before and like we overcame in the past, so shall we again,” he said.
“How quickly we do so will depend significantly on the extent to which we, as citizens, are able to act selflessly and obey precautionary measures, on the one hand, while the State and the private sector must work collaboratively, on the other hand, to deploy resources and lead initiatives to encourage economic resilience as well as to help those who are suffering the greatest,” he added.
The tourism minister said that to this end, individuals must continue to practise social distancing and limit interactions that will increase exposure to infections.
“We must also continue to observe regulations about public gatherings, while desisting from circulating misinformation or fake news that can contribute to more panic and confusion,” he emphasised