Less than one-third of the 170,000 Jamaican tourism workers who were left jobless by the onslaught of the novel coronavirus pandemic have been able to resume full-time work since the first quarter of 2020.
According to the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), with the reopening of the country’s borders to international travel in June 2020, as of December 2020, only 30 per cent of the tourism workers had been able to return to work full time.
“Another 20 per cent are now working part-time at reduced hours and reduced wages, as there is still not sufficient demand to have workers back at work full time,” according to information made available by the JHTA and released by the Ministry of Tourism.
The ministry pointed out that the sector employed approximately 170,000 workers when the pandemic broke in the first quarter of the calendar year 2020. This figure represents 12.6 per cent of the total Jamaican labour force, and was instrumental in increasing unemployment from the record low of 7.2 per cent, which was based on the October 2019 Labour Force Survey to 12.6 per cent by the third quarter of 2020.
The ministry said that, between April and May last year, approximately 90 per cent of the total tourism staff were laid off.
In the transportation sector of the ministry the lay-offs were as high as 97 per cent.
However, since then, the ministry has been working with other ministries, departments and agencies of government to implement several initiatives aimed at accelerating the industry’s return to normality, which has resulted in the increasing numbers of re-employed hospitality personnel which stood at 30 per cent at the end of December.
These initiatives include:
– The Agriculture Excess Buy Back Programme, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), which provided a market for farmers’ produce in light of the oversupply stemming from reduced demand in the tourism sector.
– The Travel Authorisation Initiative, which involved the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA), the Ministry of Health and Wellness, through the VISITJAMAICA platform through which, prior to travel, visitors were required to undergo a pre-health screening process, to better enable risk management by Ministry of Health and Wellness officials upon the visitors’ arrival.
Prior to that, visitors were required to present a COVID-19 test to the airport at the port of departure, before they were allowed to board the plane.