Tue | Nov 30, 2021

No carnival for small tourism players in Ochi

Published:Wednesday | August 18, 2021 | 12:08 AMCarl Gilchrist/Gleaner Writer
Some passengers from the Carnival Sunrise ship walk along the promenade on Monday.
Some passengers from the Carnival Sunrise ship walk along the promenade on Monday.
Carnival Sunrise cruise ship arrives at the Ocho Rios Cruise Ship Port first time back in Jamaica on Monday after nearly 17 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Carnival Sunrise cruise ship arrives at the Ocho Rios Cruise Ship Port first time back in Jamaica on Monday after nearly 17 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Although docking at sunrise, the cruise call on Monday in Ocho Rios, St Ann, brought no carnival for many small players in the tourism sector, who had pinned high hopes on the first such voyage to the island in 16 months.

“It’s not anything new” one craft vendor at Fern Gully explained to The Gleaner, reflecting on verbal clashes between taxi drivers and security personnel near the port as tourists disembarked the Carnival Sunrise.

“We hear wa gwaan dung a Ochi, but a nuh nutten new. A suh it always go,” she said. “When ship come a jus’ few people benefit – the big guys dem. We don’t get anything. Ship come today an’ we didn’t even see a bus pass.”

It was the same at the Ocho Rios Craft Market, where Director Donovan Richards said craft traders there didn’t see a single tourist from off the cruise ship.

“They don’t want tourists to interact with us as craft traders,” Richards lamented.

At the Pineapple Craft Market, one craft trader, Gamain, said only a handful of visitors passed through the market.

“We only got 16 tourists at the Pineapple Craft Market, at the top,” Gamain said, adding that Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett has promised to send tourists there from the ship when they met last Friday.

The biggest grouse, however, came from the taxi operators, several of whom spoke openly about what they deemed as injustice after a year and a half without a regular income.

UNFULFILLED OBLIGATION

Jakes Vassell of the Ocho Rios-based Jakes Tours Jamaica, who spent several years as a JUTA driver before investing in setting up a tour company, said that having booked a tour for five persons, he was not allowed to carry out his obligation.

“I had five persons pre-booked – independent tour; and for all the things the cruise ship required, I provided,” Vassell told The Gleaner, adding that he had forked out $8,000 to do a COVID-19 test just so he could be there to welcome the guests.

“They (security personnel) are telling us we cannot carry the people them. They turned back the guests them. My company is legally registered with Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB). I am certified transportation provider, just like any other person,” he complained.

“They are saying, they (guests) should only book through the cruise line,” he explained.

A driver similarly affected, Lennie Linton, also voiced his displeasure at the situation, complaining that only the big businesses were benefiting from the cruise call.

“What is happening in the tourism business now, only the rich man who come after us must make money and we that are here for 30 years must not make any money,” Linton lamented.

On Sunday, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett called on all categories of tourism workers, including drivers, craft vendors, and attractions staff, to get vaccinated as a condition of being certified as COVID-compliant by the Tourism Product Development Company and the JTB.

“No cruise passenger will go to any attraction that is not COVID-certified by TPDCo and the JTB and have licences to operate as per the amusement licence requirements of the local government, industry,” the minister said.

In a release last week, the ministry said that passengers from the ship would be allowed to go on tours within the COVID-19 Resilient Corridors, which have been in place for stopover visitors with a demonstrated record of performance for over a year.

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