Jamaica’s Bounce Back from COVID

Jamaica is getting ready for summer travels as the pandemic continues.
Jamaica is getting ready for summer travels as the pandemic continues.

Jamaica Plans to Bounce Back in a Big Way With Free Tourism Courses for Employees

By Quinn He

As summer progresses, some people are still left wondering whether or not their vacation plans can still stay solidified. While some have canceled their plans outright, others hold onto hope or plan on continuing with their much-needed vacation as if there is not a worry in the world.

Jamaica DOT Donovan White
Director of Tourism of Jamaica, Donovan White

Jamaica and other Caribbean islands are hotspots for tourists to get close to the equator and enjoy the glistening sun and drinks on the beach.

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The issue is Jamaica and its Caribbean neighbors prepping for tourists to either flood or trickle in. As the country opened back up on June 15th, 2020, certain steps had/continue to be taken to ensure the safety of travelers and staff alike.

Getting it Rolling Again

Like every country, strict and comprehensive measures need to be taken to get the tourism sectors rolling again. This affects a plethora of businesses that fall under this umbrella.

Restaurants, parks, hotels, beaches, and bars are all hoping for a return to normalcy soon with tourists holding their vacation plans.

The Director of Tourism of Jamaica, Donovan White cites, “As the nation’s largest economic engine, Jamaica’s tourism sector employs 170,000 workers, and impacts an additional 120,000 jobs from other industries (agriculture, manufacturing, entertainment, water, power, among others), fueling more than one-third of the country’s economy.

“Jamaica has suffered the most significant economic decline it has seen in four decades during this pandemic.”

Ten Years of Growth

Before the pandemic, Jamaica’s tourism sector, “was confidently entering into its tenth consecutive year of growth. Following a record-breaking year in 2019, tourism receipts for January and February indicated that the sector was growing at a rate of 5.2% in 2020.

That would have put us on a path to earn $4 Billion by the end of the year and 4.5 million in visitor arrivals. We were doing extremely well up until early March when travel grounded to a halt.”

The Workforce Training Program in Action

Like Jamaica, tons of countries were seeing growth in their tourism sector, a sector that some prime destination countries rely on, but due to COVID-19 the growth has stopped dead in its tracks. As such an unprecedented event this modern pandemic is, we see countries mimicking others in their reopening plans and we see some taking unique approaches to get tourists to feel safe to travel.

Nude beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica. photos by Max Hartshorne
Nude beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica. photos by Max Hartshorne

Jamaica’s tourism sector is gaining a lot of attention for implementing a free online training program for tourism workers that are affected by the pandemic. The aim for the program is to deliver effective online training courses and certification courses.

Not only do workers get updated training in regards to COVID-19 regulations, but employees are getting free renewed training they require anyway. Officials are looking at these courses and certified as an investment that will pay off in the future with employees holding certifications and training.

The online program costs about $9,000 per person, but the Ministry of Tourism is making a significant investment in its workers by offering the program for free in the hopes that the certifications they receive will benefit the tourism sector as a whole.

Rick's Cafe Negril, Jamaica
Rick’s Cafe Negril, Jamaica.

These training courses will be administered by The Jamaica Centre of Tourism Innovation (JTCI), National Restaurant Association, American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute, and Jamaica’s Human Employment and Resource Training National Service Training Agency.

The main functions of the JTCI are to facilitate certification of Jamaican workers in tourism, students and graduates studying hospitality, and faculty delivering the certification programs. The JTCI is an integral part of the post-COVID transition process for the country.

The eleven online courses available enable workers to get certified in guest room attendance, laundry attendance, banquet server, hospitality supervisor, restaurant server, and hospitality law. All these programs will better equip hospitality staff on the challenges that come with post-COVID protocols.

But What Do They Hope to Accomplish?

The entrance to the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston, Jamaica. Laurieanne Wysocki photos.
The entrance to the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston, Jamaica. Laurieanne Wysocki photos.

Donovan White remarks, “The Government of Jamaica sought to help these workers improve their professional skills during this forced downtime. These certified courses were offered at no cost to the workers.

The program was conceived to help tourism workers receive certifications from internationally recognized organizations, obtain new skills, and to help prepare them to best engage with guests as travel resumes.”

Currently, it’s a better time than ever for these employees to get certified and trained in various aspects of hospitality and with a low cost of nothing, why wouldn’t they?

Thousands of Layoffs

Unfortunately, thousands of tourism employees had to be let go or furloughed when the pandemic forced the country to close down, but they’re looking out for their staff who they know will be back once the heavy blanket of the pandemic has been lifted.

When asked about the impact such a program will have on Jamaica’s tourism bounce back, White responded by saying the impact will be quite significant, as well as going on to say, “With more than 8,000 persons now trained and internationally certified, we are confident that this augurs well for our industry which is already well-known for the high levels of service delivery.

Jamaica isn't just beaches and cruises.
Jamaica isn’t just beaches and cruises.

“Participants in the various programs were taught valuable lessons in health and safety and what adjustments need to be made in their sector, and which will have a ripple effect throughout the industry.

Most importantly, these individuals are now even better suited to provide exceptional service that aligns with our new realities of travel.”

It’s important to note, these training programs aren’t being forced down the throats of tourism sector employees like some standardized state tests. Currently, the government is seeing an overwhelmingly positive response to these courses and they expect to see them continue to be oversubscribed.

The Other Important Measures

Travelers from countries that are marked as High Risk are going to be subject to screening and testing done prior to entering the country. All travelers in general need to complete a Travel Authorization form within 72 hours of departure to Jamaica.

Protocols such as required face coverings, social distancing policies, and temperature checks are also being implemented. During this initial phase, the island will limit travelers to a “coronavirus-resilient corridor” that stretches along the northern coast from Negril to Port Antonio.

Hand sanitizing station in Jamaica.
Hand sanitizing station in Jamaica.

The Director of Tourism states, “In this phase, many resorts and hotels along the corridor will be opened while attractions, restaurants, and bars remain closed. The various mechanisms will be reassessed every two weeks, in conjunction with international recommendations and our government’s approach to the pandemic.”

At these hotels and resorts, the standard protocols currently being taken will be in place such as the use of masks, social distancing, and installation of hand sanitizer stations.

The goal of this is to contain the movement of visitors so, in case the event of an outbreak occurs, health officials will have an easier time tracing the origins of the cases. Other universal procedures like limited restaurant capacity and social distancing policies at pools and beaches are also in effect.

On Jamaica’s destination website, they have created an FAQ forum for potential travelers to get information on how Jamaica is gearing up for guests. Questions include topics like entry screening and testing, reopening the borders, and travel authorization.

It’s clear through these measures, the safety and well-being of everyone involved in travel and tourism are of the utmost importance to the Jamaican Ministry of Tourism. Through these plans, Jamaica aims to be on its way to a successful rebound and back on track for significant tourism growth in the next few years.

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