Jamaican Government Backtracks, Will Keep Tourists Confined to Hotels

A trio of key stakeholders in Jamaica are taking their own government to task, questioning leaders for backtracking on a promise to let tourists to the Caribbean country off hotel properties to visit approved attractions.

In a joint letter sent Friday, August 14, John G. Byles, chairman of the COVID-19 Resilient Corridor; Omar Robinson, president of the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association; and Marilyn Burrowes, president of the Association of Jamaican Attractions, all expressed disappointment in the government.

Jamaica’s leaders revered a July 31 decision that tourists would be able to leave certified safe hotels by using certified transportation to certified beaches and attractions. The government said tourists could only stay in what they dubbed the Resilient Corridor, and not interact with the general public before completing a 14-day quarantine.

That decision was reversed barely a week later, on August 7, keeping visitors on their respective hotel properties.

“Given the success thus far, since June 15 of our operations on the Resilient Corridors, we are surprised and disappointed that in an update to the DRM on August 5, the Government reversed the order, once again restricting tourists to just their hotel grounds,” Byles, Robinson and Burrowes wrote. “With all the public/private partnership on this project to date, along with success so far on the beginnings of bringing our tourism workers back to work, we cannot understand why this decision has been taken.”

Contending that the spike in COVID-19 cases did not occur within the Tourism Resilient Corridors, they argued that health ministry data show that it was Jamaicans and their visiting friends and relatives who had contributed to the spike.

“It is us Jamaicans, resident and diaspora, who are flouting the rules and putting our fellow Jamaicans at risk. We firmly agree with the Government taking strong action against those who gather unlawfully in the hundreds at rivers, beaches and at unauthorized entertainment events,” they wrote. “It seems to us that due to misbehaviour of our nationals ignoring quarantine and gathering rules, a broad brush has been unfairly used by the Government shutting down the ability for tourists to visit licensed and COVID-19-approved attraction operations, again sending thousands of workers off the job, including tour and taxi operators.”

Ironically, also on Friday, August 14, Jamaica had just introduced a video series called ‘Chill Like A Jamaican,” for tourists to learn more about the island’s culture and cuisine.

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