The Jamaica government says it is seeking to develop a contingency plan designed to ensure the recovery of the vital tourism industry as a result of the economic fallout occasioned by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, said that this is in recognition that some of the partners and stakeholders in the sector are experiencing some “cash crunch difficulties” as a result of the pandemic.
He told legislators that the plan is intended to facilitate the provision of or access to funding “should there be any systemic COVID-19-related issues with their financial arrangements”.
Bartlett, speaking on the theme “Building Forward Stronger: Tourism 2021 and Beyond,” said that consequent on the financial challenges impacting industry stakeholders, the government recognised that “there is the need for us to look closely at how to deal with [matters such as] the credit arrangements, especially to deal with those entities that may be suffering what we call a ‘heavy drainage of cash’ as a result of the pandemic, over time”.
He noted that the contingency plan is being mapped out in tandem with players in the private sector capital market.
Bartlett told the 2021/2022 Sectoral Debate that several financial institutions transacting business with stakeholders experiencing challenges have been “very responsive” to their plight.
“They have been forgiving debt in some instances and reducing payment requirements… principals. [Some] have foregone [interest] payments… and have been rolling over to facilitate these entities,” he said.
Bartlett said that the tourism industry is an ecosystem “that must be ready to return to the pre-COVID-19 earnings of US$3.7 billion, which will allow us to bring back thousands of displaced workers and to build the future.
“So… we will continue [the]… discussions [on the contingency plan] with the stakeholders and Minister of Finance and the Public Service (Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke), with the view of establishing some special vehicle to assist, if needed,” he added.
Meanwhile, Bartlett, says the training of more than 7,000 hospitality workers has been done as a key strategy to reposition the industry for the post-COVID-19 era.
He said the government is committed to developing a competitive and productive workforce that can benefit from opportunities in the sector.
“During the pandemic, we increased our efforts to train our hospitality-sector workers,” he said, adding that the training agenda was boosted with the establishment of the Jamaica Centre of Tourism Innovation (JCTI), which is tasked specifically with facilitating the development of the industry’s human capital and supporting innovation in the sector.
“This has been made possible through strategic partnerships with the Human Employment and Resource Training/National Service Training Agency Trust (HEART/NSTA Trust), Universal Service Fund (USF), National Restaurants Association (NRA), and the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI).”
Bartlett said that the JCTI is offering several middle management certification programmes in Certified Food and Beverage Executive (CFBE), Certified Hospitality Housekeeping Executive (CHHE), Certified Hospitality Trainer (CHT), and Certified Hotel Concierge (CHC).