Jamaican tourism lobby, the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), is raising the red flag regarding last weekend’s announcement by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) raising its risk assessment on Jamaica.
Jamaica is among several other Caribbean countries for which the CDC raised the risk level to four, which represents the highest warning possible. The risk level was raised based on the CDC assessment that these countries pose a significant risk of infection and spread of the deadly COVID-19 during and after visits.
This elevated risk level has caught the JHTA by surprise with the association contending that the move will negatively impact tourist arrivals during the upcoming winter season, which is the island’s biggest period for tourism. Arising from the raising of the risk level for Jamaica and its Caribbean counterparts, the CDC urged Americans wishing to travel to these territories to avoid doing so.
The advisory warned Americans that if they have to travel to the listed Caribbean territories, they should ensure that they take extra precautions, including testing before departure, wearing of masks, and employing social distancing while travelling.
LISTED ELEVATED COUNTRIES
Among the other Caribbean islands the CDC has raised its risk assessment are Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, The Bahamas, Belize, Haiti, Bonaire, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Saint Marten, Saint Eustatius, Saint Martin, The Dominican Republic and the Turks and Caicos Islands. The CDC raised the risk level from Level Three to Level Four.
JHTA President Clifton Reader expects the CDC advisory to put a damper on the tourism sector’s performance, which is just beginning to show signs of recovery. Speaking on Nationwide today (November 24), Reader argued that, with such a declaration from the CDC telling people not to travel to Jamaica, the advisory would definitely affect travellers who had intended to visit the island for the winter season.
But all is not lost as Reader believes the CDC’s elevated risk assessment on Jamaica could be revised within a few weeks if there is a consistent reduction in COVID-19 cases in the island. He was quick to point out that the damage has already been done for the current winter tourist season with the advisory being released in the market place.
The JHTA boss made the point that Jamaica was expecting a good winter tourist season based on a survey conducted by the association, which shows reasonable bookings so far with even more bookings anticipated in the coming days. Earlier, both Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett and Jamaica Tourist Board officials said they were anticipating a bumper winter tourist season, given forward bookings taking place and additional airlifts returning to Jamaica.
The CDC travel advisory was largely a global blanket and covered countries across all continents. Back in August, the US Embassy in Kingston had issued a level-three advisory on Jamaica, urging Americans to reconsider travel to the island amid a surge in coronavirus cases.
As at yesterday, Jamaica recorded 59 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the national tally to 10,343. A 78-year-old Westmoreland native was the latest COVID-related fatality, which leaves the island’s death toll at 239.