Minister announces freeze on payment of fees in the tourism sector

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett.

The Ministry of Tourism has announced a six-month moratorium on the payment for licences and of fees by entities in the tourism sector.

Making the announcement during a digital press conference Friday (April 17), Portfolio Minister Edmund Bartlett said a total of $9.7 million will be given up for the period ending September 2020.

“This would give some level of reprieve and, hopefully, help with the cash flow situation for a number of our partners out there. This six-month moratorium will be reviewed depending, of course, on the length of time that it takes for us to recover and to get going,” he said. Bartlett noted that the suspension of the payment forms part of efforts to provide support to business entities in the sector, in light of the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Tourists at Port Royal in January.

Entities slated to benefit include resort cottages, apartments, guest houses and villas, those involved in home-stay arrangements that have to be licensed, car and bike rentals, craft traders, domestic tours, contract carriage, water sports and other attractions, and all businesses that have to go through the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) and the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) for licensing.

Meanwhile, he pointed out that all of the 160,000 persons directly employed to the sector will be impacted by the Government’s stimulus package. “Forty thousand of those are still employed as we speak…working for whether two or three days per week and getting a fraction of their pay by the hotels, so in essence, 120,000 or 75 per cent of the workers employed directly to the industry are now laid off,” he said.

He encouraged Jamaicans to adhere to the rules and guidelines implemented by the Government to contain and minimise the spread of COVID-19, as their participation is vital in the recovery efforts. The minister advised that during the first two months of the calendar year, the sector earned US$859 million with more than one million visitors. “The trajectory was positive and strong, so what we want to do is to get back into the mode as quickly as possible, so that the earnings for Jamaica can, in fact, be restored,” he said.

Tourists at Port Royal in January after arriving on the cruise ship Marella Discovery II cruise ship.

However, Bartlett noted that the Caribbean region is likely to lose US$62 billion in foreign exchange earnings this year, with 2.4 million workers affected, in light of  COVID-19. “The implications for the Caribbean economy are very dire… .  In fact, the information that we have is that of the 18 countries of the Caricom area, some 15 have tourism dependence of 30 per cent and more,” he added.