Drawing on the Jamaican spirit of resilience, many tourism workers and small operators affected by the downturn in the global sector due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic are finding alternative means of making a living.
Among them is Ocho Rios businessman Michael Campbell, who says his family has been operating a craft shop at Dunn’s River Falls for more than 30 years. “It’s the only thing that we know… and our only means of survival,” he tells JIS News.
He notes, however, that business has dried up due to the closure of the popular Dunn’s River Falls as well as other attractions such as Turtle River Park, Green Grotto Caves, Laughing Waters, and Pearly Beach.
“Many persons who depend on tourists visiting these attractions, are now left without jobs. There is no blame game here, as nobody could have predicted this,” he notes.
Campbell says his family has now decided to try their hands at the buying and selling of farm produce. “The way we look at this is that in every crisis there are opportunities,” he says. “I am not sure if there could be a better time for local produce and getting the quality stuff to the various households. We will be very active in the purchase and delivery market, where we will be delivering things at the consumer’s fingertips.”
In the meantime, Port Antonio raftsman and tour guide, Bambino Mair, says he has taken up a job with a water company, delivering the precious commodity to deep-rural communities in Portland. “Prior to COVID-19, Portland was experiencing a drought. The water business is in demand right now and I have been offered an opportunity that I have gladly seized with both hands,” he says.
St Ann businessman, Garfield Dussard, whose Garfield’s Diving operation also has branches in Falmouth and Montego Bay, says a number of his employees have taken up temporary occupations in businesses that range from “taxi, farming, food deliveries to plumbing”. He adds: “Persons have not been folding over or waiting for handouts. They know that this will one day subside, so in the meantime, they are keeping themselves busy, as the bills still will have to be paid.”
Tourism is one of the sectors most affected by COVID-19, due to travel restrictions being introduced. Tourism workers, who were laid off from their jobs because of the virus, will receive a grant of up to $9,000 fortnightly from the government, paid monthly from the month of their application through to June, under the Supporting Employees with Transfer of Cash (SET) programme.
Meanwhile, under the Business Employee Support and Transfer of Cash (BEST Cash) Programme, temporary cash transfers will be provided to registered businesses based on the number of workers they keep employed who are at or under the income tax threshold of $1.5 million per annum. These include operators in the hotels, tours and attractions segment of the sector.