Tue | Apr 20, 2021

Tourism honcho predicts bleak winter

Published:Wednesday | December 16, 2020 | 12:32 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer
Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association President Clifton Reader.
Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association President Clifton Reader.

WESTERN BUREAU:

The raging COVID-19 pandemic has severely dampened prospects of a resurgent winter tourist season, president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Clifton Reader, has forecast.

In an unusually sombre letter to members of his association marking the December 15 start to the winter season, Reader said bookings over the next three months could be alarmingly low, fluctuating between “the teens” in January and maybe 40-50 per cent in April.

“It is no secret that COVID-19 has caused a severe contraction in bookings, especially from overseas guests, and the forecast for winter 2020-2021 is, as a result, very bleak,” Reader said.

The JHTA president said that a survey among the membership in the accommodation sector indicates that “we will finish 2020” with just under 30 per cent occupancy, adding that January will be in the teens and February the twenties.

March, he said, could see the numbers back in the thirties, and “we are hoping that the travellers in our source markets will be sufficiently vaccinated by April, to take us into the 40s and 50s”.

He further noted that while the forecast for international travel is still weak because of increased numbers of COVID-19 cases overseas and locally, stakeholders continue to be encouraged by the return of airlines like British Airways, Copa, and others, which “indicates improved confidence in Destination Jamaica”.

“There is a large amount of pent-up demand for travel following the unprecedented global lockdown, months of closed borders and travel bans, and while the expected rebound in 2021 is based on the assumption of the lifting of travel restrictions and improved traveller confidence, we are ensuring that Jamaica is ready to fill that demand when the time comes,” Reader added.

He also lauded Jamaicans in the diaspora and at home for their support in keeping hotels afloat.

Reader said the JHTA COVID-19 Ambassador Programme, which is designed to educate and inform and impart “all that we have learnt about safety protocols and systems to keep our teams, families and communities safe”, has helped to curb the spread of the coronavirus.