Fri | Oct 15, 2021

Letter of the Day | Our economy is on a slippery slope

Published:Wednesday | October 13, 2021 | 12:11 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

Let us not forget that economies function like the body. All parts of the body are important, but it would be foolish to protect your ankle and not your head in an earthquake.

Each person will put their area of work first, but in the grand scheme of things, the biggest contributor to the economy should get preference.

So how is it that there are more talks about opening the entertainment industry than making the tourism industry safer for reopening?

To the naked eye, tourism may seem unrelated from food prices, but if the industry crumbles, every facet of Jamaica will feel it, and severely so, for several reasons.

Since the onset of COVID-19, very little attention is given to the impacts on tourism or its relation to the economy at large. The limited number of visitors is disheartening, as tourism alone contributes a third of the national gross domestic product (GDP). In other words, all the other dozens of contributing sectors in the country make up the remaining two-thirds. For that fact alone, the Government should be tapping all resources to protect its major source of revenue.

To be fair, we live in an unprecedented time, and no one has a manual on how to successfully manoeuvre it. However, the tourist market is not waiting on us to figure out substantial ways to keep in the race, either. Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett is trying to use innovative ways to open the sector and keeping it safe, despite all the challenges, because can Jamaica afford to remain restricted and restrictive?

TERRIBLE FOR BUSINESS

The docking of the cruise ship on a no-movement day, Monday, September 13, caused widespread uproar. The common line of reasoning from some Jamaicans in comment sections on social media is the proverbial, “What is good for the goose is good for the gander.” While that has some merits, we have to consider all parts.

There are many islands that are selling sand, sea and sun that wanted the business, but they chose Jamaica. Our island being in a constant state of uncertainty – the closed borders, no-movement days and curfews - is terrible for business.

Cancelling a cruise deal is not like asking a taxi for a quick turn-off; there are a lot of logistics agreed to in advance. Last-minute cancellation can also have lasting impacts on business partnerships and international relations, and could decrease the desirability of an island that is not short of a natural wonder.

By the end of 2019, Jamaica surpassed 4.3 million visitors and cashing in upwards of $1 billion each year to that point. The country was on an upward trajectory until the COVID-19 pandemic hit the island. We have clearly not regained footing, as 2020 and 2021 numbers so far, combined, are still beneath 2019 numbers.

BUMPY ROAD

The road to recovery looks awfully bumpy, as requesting the service force to take vaccines, with so many speculations around it, will be like pulling teeth.

The tourism ministry and its agencies will have to create innovative ways to recapture the eyes of travellers. Innovation and creativity must be bolstered to reclaim traditional markets and venture into new ones.

Whatever angle the ministry decides to take, it must be effective and quickly implemented, because if the sector continues on this trend, the ramifications will be devastating and lasting.

T.J. OSBOURNE