Visitors to Jamaica now have authorised access to the southern end of the island, as the Government has implemented the second phase of the coronavirus (COVID-19) Resilient Corridor, in keeping with the phased reopening of the tourism sector.
Dubbed the ‘South Coast Resilient Corridor’, this new segment became effective on Tuesday, spanning Milk River in Clarendon to Negril in Westmoreland, along the south coast.
Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, who made the announcement in a statement to the House of Representatives on Tuesday, said the COVID-19 Resilient Corridor has proven to be an effective tool in managing visitor movement within the designated area.
The first phase saw the restriction of visitor movement to the northern end of the island within that corridor, which was established along the main road from Negril to Port Antonio and facilitated visits to accommodations such as hotels, villas, guesthouses and other establishments within that space.
The boundary for the South Coast Corridor starts at Farquhar’s Beach, going north along Milk River main road and ends at the roundabout at the intersection with Norman Manley Boulevard in Negril, which intersects with the northern Tourism Resilient Corridor. The boundary only takes into consideration all the main roads leading to the seashore.
Bartlett explained that this represents part 1, Section A of the Southern Corridor, and that the other section, which runs from Milk River into St Thomas, will be opened as Phase 2B at the next review that is done.
“Much like the North Coast Resilient Corridor, this area will welcome visitors with robust health and safety protocols. We put a lot of focus on the protocols and… the compliance on the part of the stakeholders as well as the visitors. This expansion will enable more visitors to experience the tourism product, while enabling tourism businesses and workers to restart operations in a safe environment,” the minister said.
Bartlett pointed out that the protocols were designed based on benchmarks of nearly 20 markets in the Caribbean and globally, as well as international health agencies. They cover large and small hotels, guesthouses, attractions, beaches, transportation, shopping, social activities (restaurants and bars) and cruise ports.
“The fundamental elements of the tourism protocols are sanitisation, face masks and personal protective equipment, physical distancing, clear communication and messaging, digital enablement, real-time health monitoring and reporting, rapid response, and training,” he said.
Mr. Bartlett noted that the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) is playing a lead role in driving compliance with these protocols and has redeployed existing product quality officers to increase the complement of persons dedicated to overseeing compliance from 11 to 70, to ensure they have proper capacity to manage this task, which entails constant monitoring.
“Moving forward, the intention is for the TPDCo to work in collaboration with the Ministries of Health and Wellness; Local Government and Community Development; Transport and Mining; and National Security, along with other tourism partners to enforce protocols along the corridors,” he said.
Bartlett advised that in order to become COVID-certified, tourism entities are required to submit a recovery plan based on the protocols, introduce proper COVID-related signage; as well as to enforce social distancing, hand sanitising and the wearing of masks.
“To date, 113 tourism accommodations along the North Coast Corridor have been certified as COVID-compliant; while 13 such accommodations have been certified along the South Coast Corridor in Phase 2A,” he informed.
In the meantime, Bartlett informed that since the tourism sector reopened to visitors on June 15, the country has welcomed more than 35,000 visitors and resident Jamaicans.
“It is estimated that during the month of July, Jamaica will welcome a total of 41,000 passengers (visitors and resident Jamaicans). This will result in approximately US$80 million in earnings,” he said.