COVID, tourism combine to show disparity between big players and small
While Jamaica has used COVID-19 protocols to create the Resilient Corridor on Jamaica's North Coast, the measure to keep both locals and Jamaicans safe has seemingly disenfranchised another set dependent on tourism for their livelihood and has maybe brought to bear a certain disparity between the have and the have nots in the sector
Published September 14, 2021
‘Not even a howdy’
Locked out from cruise cash, small traders cry foul again
Carl Gilchrist/Gleaner Writer
IT WAS another day of disappointment for small traders in Ocho Rios, St Ann, as they failed to land a single sale despite making preparations to cash in on yesterday’s Carnival Sunrise cruise call.
On its third visit to the island in a month, none of the ship’s 1,700 passengers were allowed to go beyond Dunn’s River Falls & Park, Green Grotto Caves, Mystic Mountain, Dolphin Cove, and Island Village, in order to limit contact with locals.
Floyd Tinker, a craft trader at the Ocho Rios Craft Market, fumed at the situation as, like fellow vendors, he had spent funds getting his business protocol-ready, including doing a COVID-19 test, and was given the green light to open for business.
Similar to the two previous occasions when the Carnival Sunrise docked in Ocho Rios since August, not even a single tourist visited the market.
“It’s been a while we haven’t even received a guest, not even to say ‘hi’ or ‘howdy’,” Tinker said.
“It’s been three cruise ships since the pandemic and right now we haven’t even seen a guest.”
With a national lockdown in place as the island battles a third wave of coronavirus infections, the resort town was like a ghost town.
This did not escape a cruise passenger from Michigan, Rhonda Evans, as she spoke with The Gleaner, noting that she was used to interacting with Jamaicans on her visits.
Despite the cries from the craft traders and other merchants who were not able to earn from the visit, the organisers noted that the day went smoothly for the sector.
STRICT COVID-19 PROTOCOLS
John Byles said the restricted movement by the visitors was to ensure strict COVID-19 protocols.
Byles is the chairman of the COVID Resilient Corridor set up to restrict interaction between visitors and Jamaicans across the island and curtail the spread of the coronavirus along the tourism frontier.
He said that the strict adherence to protocols along the corridor has resulted in just a one per cent COVID-19 positivity rate among tourists leaving the island.
“What it really is was taking the Ministry of Health protocols which work and putting a system in place to manage and monitor that these protocols are working,” Byles said.
“Everybody leaving the corridor – all visitors that come to stay in the hotels and go on the attractions – they’re all tested before they go back to the United States and we have maintained a positivity rate of under one per cent. At one period, it went to 1.17 [per cent] and it has since maintained at one per cent or below, which is really proof that the protocols work,” he said.
“That’s not to say it’s not important to vaccinate because vaccination becomes a very powerful tool in the toolkit of protocols, which we all need to keep ourselves safe and to allow the continuity of business going forward,” he added.
But even as he sang the success of the protocols along the corridor, the majority of the Ocho Rios business sector, still hurting from a tourism sector that is still to recover from the impact of the coronavirus, was crying foul.
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