JHTA AGM 2020 - OMAR ROBINSON - Past President

ADDRESS BY OMAR ROBINSON,
PRESIDENT THE JAMAICA HOTEL & TOURIST ASSOCIATION (JHTA) AT THE JHTA’S 59TH ANNUAL GENERL
MEETING & VIRTUAL MARKET UPDATE SEPTEMBER 18, 2020

HON. EDMUND BARTLETT, MINISTER OF TOURISM - CONGRATULATIONS MRS. JENNIFER GRIFFITH, PERMANENT SECRETARY, MOT CHAIRMEN OF THE BOARDS OF THE MOT MR. DONOVAN WHITE, DIRECTOR OF TOURISM EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS OF THE AGENCIES OF THE MOT VICE PRESIDENTS OF THE JHTA – MRS. CAROL BOURKE, MS. VANA TAYLOR, MR. ROBERT HEADLEY & MR. CHRISTOPHER JARRETT MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL AREA CHAIRMEN PAST PRESIDENTS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE JHTA, MRS. CAMILLE NEEDHAM MEMBERS OF THE ASSOCIATION

TRAVEL AND MEDIA PARTNERS OTHER DISTINGUISHED GUESTS LADIES & GENTLEMEN, GOOD MORNING. IT IS MY PLEASURE TO WELCOME EVERYONE TO THE 59TH ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING & VIRTUAL MARKET UPDATE OF THE JAMIACA HOTEL & TOURIST ASSOCIATION (JHTA). THESE UNPRECEDENTED TIMES OCCASIONED BY THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC, HAVE BROUGHT US TOGETHER VIRTUALLY, AS WE TAKE STOCK OF OUR EFFORTS OVER THE PAST YEAR, TO STRENGTHEN AND DEVELOP JAMAICA’S TOURISM INDUSTRY.

THANKFULLY, WE HAD SOME SUCCESSES WHICH ARE HELPING US TO NAVIGATE THE CURRENT CHALLENGES BROUGHT ON BY THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC, BUT I WLL DEAL WITH THAT LATER. WE STARTED 2019 IN AN UPBEAT POSITION DESPITE CHANGES TAKING PLACE IN THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY WORLDWIDE. IN JUST NINE WEEKS OF 2019, THE COUNTRY WAS DECLARED THE FIRST CARIBBEAN DESTINATION TO WELCOME ONE MILLION VISITORS DURING THE PERIOD, GENERATING FOREIGN EXCHANGE EARNINGS OF APPROXIMATELY US$800M. BY JUNE, WE HAD WELCOMED TWO MILLION VISITORS AND EARNED OVER US$2 BILLION IN REVENUE. EVERYONE WAS HAPPY!

THE JAMAICA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE COMMISSIONED BUSINESS AND CONSUMER CONFIDENCE INDICES FOR THE THIRD QUARTER OF 2019 INDICATED THAT THE TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY SHOWED THE HIGHEST INTEREST FOR BUSINESSES TO INVEST AS IT GENERATES THE MOST SIGNIFICANT RETURNS.

IN THE ACCOMMODATIONS SECTOR, THE YEAR SAW CONSIDERABLE UPGRADING OF INFRASTRUCTURE AT MANY OF OUR HOTELS AND THERE WAS ALSO NOTABLE, THE DEVELOPMENT OF ADDITIONAL TOURIST ATTRACTIONS INCLUDING SOME BASED ON ECOLOGICAL, CULTURAL AND HERITAGE RESOURCES.

WE ALSO SAW A BOON IN HEALTH AND WELLNESS TOURISM, AND EXPANSION IN COMMUNITY TOURISM WITH SMALL HOTELS AND PROPERTIES COMING INTO THEIR OWN.

THE ISLAND’S INVENTORY OF HOTEL ROOMS INCREASED WITH THE ADDITION OF NEW ROOMS, AIRLINES EXPANDED THEIR SCHEDULE OF FLIGHTS TO OUR TWO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTS; DOMESTIC TOURISM GREW WITH THE NEW HIGHWAYS OFFERING MORE EFFICIENT INTRAISLAND TRAVEL.

OUR ASSOCIATION ALSO WELCOMED A HOST OF NEW MEMBERS AMONG THEM LARGE AND SMALL ALLIED COMPANIES INCLUDING SOME WELLKNOWN INTERNATIONAL AND LOCAL BRANDS.

OVERALL, OUR INDUSTRY PERFORMED ABOVE EXPECTATIONS AND WE ENDED THE YEAR WITH TOURISM ARRIVALS OF 3.6M VISITORS AND PROJECTED EARNINGS OF US$4.4B. THE TOURISM INDUSTRY HAS SHOWN CONTINUOUS GROWTH YEAR OVER YEAR AND WAS PROJECTED TO CONTINUE THAT TREND ENDING UP WITH RECORD ARRVALS AND EARNINGS FOR 2020. THE 2019/2020 WINTER TOURISM SEASON STARTED OFF GREAT; HOWEVER, THE END WAS TOTALLY UNEXPECTED AS A RESULT OF THE CORONVIRUS.

AS A RESULT OF THIS PANDEMIC WHICH WE ARE ALL EXPERIENCING GLOBALLY, WE HAVE WITNESSED AN UNPRECEDENTED FALL OFF IN BUSINESS AS A RESULT OF THE SIGNIFICANT REDUCTION IN VISITOR ARRIVAL. INITIALLY, IT WAS OUR INTENTION TO WEATHER THIS STORM; HOWEVER, TOURISM ARRIVALS DETERIORATED FROM WEEK TO WEEK WITH THE INDUSTRY COMING TO AN ALMOST COMPLETE CLOSURE BY THE END OF MARCH. THIS WAS A FIRST FOR OUR INDUSTRY.

A MAJOR CONSEQUENCE OF THE CLOSURE OF THE INDUSTRY AT THE END OF MARCH WAS THE NON-PAYMENT OF ACCOUNTS RECEIVABLES BY MAJOR TOUR OPERATORS AND OTAs WHO DECLARED BANKRUPTCY OR A FORCE MAJEURE AS IN THE CASE OF ONE OF THE WORLD’S LARGEST TOUR OPERATOR. THIS WAS COMPOUNDED BY THE SIGNIFICANT SUMS WHICH WERE REFUNDED DUE TO CANCELLATIONS FOR FUTURE STAYS BY PROSPECTIVE VISITORS WHO PREPAID FOR THEIR HOTELS AND ON-ISLAND EXPERIENCES. THIS RESULTED IN A MAJOR CASH FLOW PROBLEM FOR THE AFFECTED TOURISM BUSINESSES.

THE FINANCIAL BLOW TAKEN BY THE TOURISM INDUSTRY AND THOSE SECTORS THAT SUPPLY GOODS & SERVICES TO THE INDUSTRY HAS BEEN OF SIGNIFICANT MAGNITUDE. AMAZINGLY, AS WE SPEAK, THE DEBATE CONTINUES AS TO THE VALUE OF THE TOURISM INDUSTRY IN JAMAICA. WHAT IS INDISPUTABLE IS THAT THIS SECTOR GENERATES OVER 50% OF THIS COUNTRY’S TOTAL FOREIGN EXCHANGE EARNINGS AND PROVIDES APPROXIMATELY ONE FOURTH OF ALL JOBS IN JAMAICA. TOURISM IS ALSO THE ANCHOR FOR MANY OTHER SECTORS.

INTERESTINGLY, THE WORLD TRAVEL & TOURISM COUNCIL (WTTC) REPORTED RECENTLY THAT JAMAICA RETAINS 41% OF EVERY US$1 SPENT AND NOTED THE STRONG BACKWARD AND FORWARD LINKAGES OF TOURISM ON OTHER SECTORS OF THE ECONOMY.

THE UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE ON TRADE AND DEVELOPMENT (UNCTAD) REPORT STATED THAT JAMAICA IS THE #1 COUNTRY TO EXPERIENCE THE WORSE EFFECTS OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. DUE, THEY SAID, TO OUR SUCCESS IN RETENTION OF THE DOLLAR AND DEEPENING OF THE TOURISM LINKAGES WITHIN THE ECONOMY. THEREFORE, A GREAT DEAL IS RIDING ON A SPEEDY REBOUND OF TOURISM WHICH WILL BENEFIT OTHER INDUSTRIES AND JAMAICA AT LARGE. THE JHTA RECOGNIZES ITS CENTRAL ROLE IN THE REBOUND OF THE JAMAICAN ECONOMY AND THE NEED FOR CLOSE AND EFFECTIVE

PARTNERSHIPS WITH THE GOVERNMENT OF JAMAICA, OUR FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS AND LABOUR, TO SUCCESSFULLY ACHIEVE OUR MANDATE AS THE PRIVATE SECTOR UMBRELLA ORGANIZATION FOR THE TOURISM INDUSTRY.

IN THIS REGARD, BE ASSURED THAT YOUR ASSOCIATION IS WORKING TO RATIONALIZE A NUMBER OF ISSUES GERMAINE TO OUR REVOVERY FROM THE EFFECTS OF COVID-19.

IN THE AREA OF TAX RELIEF AND SUPPORT FOR INSTANCE, AT THE START OF THE PANDEMIC, WE ASKED THE GOVERNMENT TO CONSIDER RELIEF OF SOME TAXES TO HELP OFFSET THE MASSIVE LOSS OF CASH FLOW WHICH THE SECTOR WAS EXPERIENCING. SOME OF THESE INCLUDED: - A TAX CREDIT ON CGT COLLECTED - A DEFERAL OF THE PAYMENT COPORATE TAXES - WAIVER OF IMPORT DUTIES ON SANITARY AND PROTECTIVE ITEMS - SOFT LOANS AT ZERO INTEREST RATE OR A SIGNIFICANTLY LOW RATE - UNEMPLOYMENT GRANTS FOR THE INDUSTRY’S EMPLOYEES

WE ALSO ENGAGED THE BANKS AND LENDING INSITITUTIONS TO OBTAIN MORATORIA ON EXISTING LOANS. IT MUST BE NOTED THAT AT MARCH 2020, AN ENORMOUS SUM OF J$56B WAS OWED TO LOCAL BANKS BY THE INDUSTRY. SPECIAL COMMENDATION MUST BE GIVEN TO THESE FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS FOR EXTENDING MORATORIA TO THE INDUSTRY. MEETINGS WERE ALSO HELD WITH THE JAMAICA PUBLIC SERVICE (JPS) IN AN EFFORT TO GET THE DEMAND CHARGES ON ELECTICITY BILLS REMOVED OR REDUCED DURING THE CLOSURE. HOEVER, THERE WAS NOT AGREEMENT TO THIS REQUEST.

LET ME BE CLEAR, IT IS NOT THAT WE ARE DISCOUNTING THE CHALLENGES BEING FACED BY OTHER SECTORS OF THE ECONOMY. HOWEVER, IT SHOULD BE POINTED OUT THAT TOURISM, UNLIKE MANUFACTURING, IS AN INTANGIBLE PRODUCT. TOURISM CANNOT STORE ITS INVENTORY ON THE SHELVES TO SELL AT A LATER DATE AND REVENUES LOST TODAY CAN NEVER BE RECOUPED TOMORROW. SO RIGHT AWAY, THIS PUTS TOURISM ON A DIFFERENT FOOTING TO OTHER SECTORS OF THE ECONOMY.

WHATSMORE, NO OTHER SECTOR EXPERIENCED A COMPLETE AND TOTAL LOCKDOWN OF ITS PRODUCTIVE CAPACITY AND AS I ALREADY STATED – MANY OTHER SECTORS DEPEND ON OUR GOOD HEALTH AND GROWTH FOR THEIR SURVIVAL.

WE ARE VERY GRATEFUL TO THE GOVERNMENT FOR THE REOPENING OF THE COUNTRY SINCE JUNE 15, 2020, WHICH HAS ALLOWED SOME OF OUR JHTA MEMBERS TO RESUME OPERATIONS. BUT MAKE NO MISTAKE, HOTELS REOPENING AND RUNNING AT 10-30% OF OCCUPANCY CANNOT BE INTERPRETED AS A RETURN OF THESE BUSINESSES TO PROFITABLITY.

THE BURN RATE OF CASH DURING THIS PERIOD IS IMMENSE AND UNDERSCORES THE APPEAL WE HAVE BEEN MAKING FOR THE URGENT HELP FOR WORKING CAPITAL TO SUPPORT THE SECTOR. WE CONTINUE TO EXPLORE WORKABLE PRIVATE AND PUBLIC SECTOR OPTIONS FOR OUR MEMBERSHIP INCLUDING A POTENTIAL CAPITAL MARKET SOLUTION, FURTHER MORATORIA ON MORTGAGE AND LOAN PAYMENTS FROM ALL LENDING INSTITUTIONS AND LOW INTEREST LOANS. ALLOW ME TO PAUSE HERE TO CONGRATULATE OUR MEMBERS, WHO IN LARGE MEASURE, RETAINED AS MANY OF THEIR EMPLOYEES AS POSSIBLE DESPITE THE LOSS OF BUSINESS OCCASIONED BY COVID-19.

REGRETTABLY, THE UNPRECENDENTED CESSATION OF ALL TOURISM RELATED BUSINESS IN BOTH LEISURE AND BUSINESS SEGMENTS, SAW SOME LAYOFFS THROUGHOUT THE INDUSTRY BUT SOME PROPERTIES DESERVE COMMENDATIONS FOR PROVIDING STIPENDS AND CARE PACKAGES FOR THEIR TEAMS, AND ONCE OUR BORDERS WERE OPENED – A SMALL PERCENTAGE OF THESE EMPLOYEES CAME BACK TO WORK WITH THE LARGER PORTION STILL UNABLE TO RETURN FULL-TIME DUE TO REDUCED OCCUPANCIES. IT MUST BE NOTED THAT INITIALLY, WE PROACTIVELY MET WITH THE MINISTRY OF LABOUR & SOCIAL SECURITY IN ORDER TO EXTEND THE 120 DAYS LOFF-OFF PERIOD AND STAVE OFF MASS REDUNDANCIES THROUGHOUT THE INDUSTRY AS IT BECAME CLEAR THAT OUR BUSINESSES WOULD NOT RESUME NORMAL OPERATIONS IN THE SHORT TERM. THE UNIONS REJECTED ANY SUGGESTIONS FOR AN EXTENSION THAT WOULD INCLUDE AN AMENDMENT TO THE APPLICABLE ACT. DISCUSSIONS ALSO TOOK PLACE THROUGH THE TOURISM RECOVERY TASK FORCE; HOWEVER, WE WERE UNSUCCESSFUL IN GETTING A RESOLUTION TO THIS ISSUE, WHICH POETNTIALLY CAN LEAD TO BANKRUPTCY WITHIN THE INDUSTRY. THROUGH THE JAMAICA EMPLOYERS FEDERATION (JEF), WE WERE GIVEN A SEAT ON THE NEWLY FORMED LABOUR ADVISORY COUNCIL. HOWEVER, DISCUSSIONS ARE YET TO GET STARTED AND WE WILL SEEK FURTHER CLARITY ON THE START UP.

THANKS ARE IN ORDER TO THE GOVERNMENT AS WELL FOR THE SET AND BEST CASH PROGRAMMES THAT WERE WELCOME ASSISTANCE FOR THE THOUSANDS OF TOURISM WORKERS IMPACTED BY THE GLOBAL FALLOUT. WHILST, WE APPRECIATE THIS FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE, IT WAS NOT WITHOUT ITS OWN CHALLENGES, SOME OF WHICH SOME OF OUR MEMBERS ARE STILL EXPERIENCING TODAY. SPECIAL THANKS TO PAST PRESIDENT WAYNE CUMMINGS, WHO TOOK ALL YOUR QUERIES AND WAS IN CONSTANT DIALOGUE WITH THE MINISTRY OF FINANCE. WE CONTINUE TO LOBBY FOR A FURTHER EXTENSION OF BOTH PROGRAMMES TO ASSIST THE MANY WORKERS STILL WAITING TO BE RECALLED TO THEIR JOBS AS THE SECTOR PLAYERS WORK TOWARDS RECOVERY.

IN THIS REGARD, WE MUST ALSO THANK OUR PARTNERS, THE MINISTRY OF TOURISM AND THE JAMAICA TOURIST BOARD. OUR MINISTER OF TOURISM, HON. ED BARTLETT HAS DONE AN OUTSTANDING JOB IN STEERING JAMAICAS’ TOURISM AWAY FROM A PATH OF TOTAL COLLAPSE IN THE FACE OF THE PANDEMIC. THROUGH THE TOURISM RECOVERY TASK FORCE LED BY MINISTER BARTLET AND CHAIRED BY WILFRED BAGHALOO OF PRICE WATERHOUSE COOPERS, A ROBUST SET OF HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS WAS PREPAPRED FOR THE INDUSTRY’S REOPENING. THESE PROTOCOLS WOULD ENSURE THAT OUR EMPLOYEES WORK SAFELY WHILE PROTECTING THEMSELVES AND THE VISITORS. SPECIAL MENTION MUST BE GIVEN TO JESSICA SHANNON OF PWC WHO WAS VERY INSTRUMENTAL IN THIS ENTIRE PROCESS. ALLOW ME AT THIS TIME TO RECOGNIZE SOME OF OUR OWN MEMBERS WHO WORKED TIRELESSLY IN THIS RECOVERY PROCESS – NICOLA MADDEN-GREIG, ADAM STEWART, WAYNE CUMMINGS, IAN DEAR, GLENN LAWRENCE, PHILIPP HOFER, JOHN BYLES AND KEITH COLLISTER. THESE MEMBERS FORMED THE JHTA COVID RECOVERY COMMITTEE AND MET ON NUMEROUS OCCASIONS TO GUIDE THE RECOVERY OF THE INDUSTRY. THEY PROVIDED YEOMAN ’S SERVICE AND WERE QUICK TO JUMP ON A ZOOM CALL FROM EARLY MORNINGS UNTIL LATE NIGHTS.

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PECIAL COMMENDATIONS FOR THE DESIGNATION OF COVID-19 TOURISM RESILIENT CORRIDORS – A MASTER STROKE IN BUILDING CONFIDENCE AMONG TEAMS AND VISITORS THAT JAMAICA’S TOURISM IS ALIVE AND WELL, OPERATING SAFELY. THE CHAIRMAN OF THE RESILIENT CORRIDORS JOHN BYLES HAS BEEN AND REMAINS VOCAL ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF THESE THREE RESILIENT CORRIDORS, WHICH WERE DESIGNED TO PROVIDE VISITORS WITH ACCESS TO TOURISM PRODUCTS WHILE KEEP OUR COMMUNITIES SAFE. HAS HOWEVER, THIS WAS NOT WITHOUT CHALLENGES WHICH RESTRICTED VISITOR MOVEMENT. INITIALLY VISITORS WERE ONLY ALLOWED TO STAY IN HOTELS EVEN AFTER ATTRACTIONS REOPENED, FURTHER IMPACTING REVENUE EARNINGS IN ALREADY AILING ATTRACTIONS. THIS WAS LATER REVISED TO STAY IN ZONE AND VISITORS WERE LATER ALLOWED TO VISIT COVID COMPLIANT ATTRACTIONS IN APPROVED TRANSPORTATION. WE HAVE ALSO BEEN EXPERIENCING DELAYS WITH VISTORS OBTAINING TRAVEL AUTHORIZATION CAUSING INCREASED ANXIETY AND FRUSTRATION AMONG THE TRAVEL TRADE AND VISITORS, LEADING TO NUMEROUS CANCELLATIONS. THERE IS ALSO THE ISSUE OF TREATING WITH SPLIT STAYS, WHICH IS COMMONPLACE ESPECIALLY FOR SMALLER PROPERTIES. THESE VISITORS OFTEN WANT THE EXPERIENCE OF TWO DIFFERENT PROPERTIES AND SELECT SPILT STAYS SO THEY CAN ENJOY BOTH EXPERIENCES. IN ADDITION, THERE ARE INCONSISTENCIES IN THE INFORMATION PROVIDED TO VISITORS AT OUR AIRPORTS RESULTING IN THEIR DISSATIFACTION. WE CONTINUE TO ENGAGE THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH TO GET WORKABLE SOLUTIONS.

WE ALL AGREED THAT PRETESTING OF VISITORS TO THE ISLAND IS ESSENTIAL. INITIALLY, WE WERE ONE OF THE FIRST GROUPS TO CALL FOR PRE-TESTING. THE DECISION WAS TAKEN TO DO IN-DESTINATION TESTING TO REOPEN THE INDUSTRY; HOWEVER, THIS HAD RESOURCES CHALLENGES MAKING IT UNSUSTAINABLE. THE GOVERNMENT MOVED TO PRE-TESTING IN FOUR STATES INITIALLY AND THEN THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE UNITED STATES. RECENTLY, WE HAVE CALLED ON GOVERNMENT TO APPROVE THE ADOPTION OF A RAPID TESTING REGIME, TO BE ACCESSED BY VISITORS AND WORKERS SO THAT WE CAN, TO THE BEST OF OUR ABILITIES, MAINTAIN SAFETY IN THE WORK ENVIRONMENT AS WELL AS OUR SURROUNDING COMMUNITIES. WE ARE HAPPY TO HEAR THAT A RAPID ANTIGEN TEST HAS BEEN APPROVED FOR USE LOCALLY. WE HOPE THAT FURTHER CONSIDERATION WILL BE GIVEN FOR USE OF THESE TESTS AS PART OF THE TRAVEL AUTHORIZATION PROCESS.

THE JHTA AND JTB HAVE TRADITIONALLY HAD A COLLABORATIVE RELATIONSHIP IN MARKETING THE ISLAND AND THIS PARTNERSHIP IS EVEN MORE IMPORTANT AT THIS TIME AS WE “PIVOT” IN IDENTIFYING AND TARGETING THE GENERATION C TRAVELLER AS WELL AS NEW SEGMENTS POST COVID-19. THE JTB LAUNCHED THE REDISCOVER JAMAICAN PROGRAM TARGETTED FOR THE LOCAL MARKET, WHICH POSITIVELY IMPACTED OUR OCCUPANCIES DURING THE SUMMER MONTHS. WE ARE GRATEFUL FOR THIS INITIATIVE AND I CALL UPON YOU TO CONSIDER AN EXTENSION. I ALSO IMPLORE YOU TO DEVELOP MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL ELATIONSHIPS WITH OUR LOCAL TOUR OPERATORS AND TRAVEL AGENTS AS THEY STAND READY TO WORK WITH YOU. OUR ANNUAL JAPEX TRADE SHOW WILL BE VIRTUAL THIS YEAR FROM NOVEMBER 9-11. PAST PRESIDENT NICOLA MADDEN-GREIG HAS BEEN SPEARHEADING THE DISCUSSIONS WITH THE JTB TO MAKE THIS A REALITY. I ENCOURAGE YOU TO PARTICIPATE. COLLEAGUE MEMBERS OF THE JHTA, I CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH, HOW PROUD WE ARE OF YOUR RESPONSIBLE MANAGEMENT OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC IN JAMAICA. YOUR COMMITMENT TO STAFF AND VISITOR SAFETY HAS BEEN OUTSTANDING. YOU HAVE COMPLIED WITH ESTABLISHED PROTOCOLS, AT GREAT EXPENSE, DESPITE REDUCED CAPACITY AND EARNINGS. BECAUSE OF YOUR STRICT MANAGEMENT OF THESE PROTOCOLS, WE HAVE HAD NO KNOWN TRANSMISSION OF THE VIRUS AT OUR ENTITIES FROM VISITOR TO STAFF AND WE WANT TO MAINTAIN THIS RECORD. LET ME IMPLORE YOU TO CONTINUE TO MAINTAIN THE HIGHEST ADHERENCE TO THESE PROTOCOLS. THIS IS EXEMPLARY FOR THE REST OF THE COUNTRY TO SEE AND EMULATE. CONTRARY TO THE NAYSAYERS WHO OPINED THAT THE INDUSTRY SHOULD NOT REOPEN IN JUNE, WE ARE PROUD TO SAY THE HIGHEST NUMBERS OF CASES ARE NOT IN THE RESORT AREAS. WE EMPATHIZE WITH THE REST OF THE NATION AND ASK THEM TO ADOPT A SIMILAR AND RESPONSIBLE APPROACH TO CURTAILING THE SPREAD OF THE VIRUS.

NO ONE KNOWS HOW LONG THIS PANDEMIC WILL LAST BUT, ONE OF THE ENCOURAGING TRENDS FOR US IS THE CONTINUING INTEREST FROM OVERSEAS IN BRAND JAMAICA. IN ADDITION, OUR FALL OCCUPANCIES ARE TRANDITIONALLY LOW AND THIS YEAR IS NO EXCEPTION. ADDITIONALLY WE ARE ALSO IN AN ELECTION YEAR FOR THE U.S. AND TRADITIONALLY, WE HAVE SEEN REDUCED OCCUPANCIES. HOWEVER, SOME TOURISM ENTITIES ARE REPORTING OCCUPANCY LEVELS OF 50-70% FOR THE UPCOMING WINTER SEASON. WHILST THIS IS NOT THE GENERAL CASE THROUGHOUT THE INDUSTRY, IT IS ENCOURAGING TO SEE THE INTEREST IN TRAVEL TO JAMAICA RETURNING. IT IS OUR HOPE THAT WITH A VACCINE, WHICH IS PENDING, ALONG WITH OUR STRONG ADEHERENCE TO THE HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS, OUR VISITOR ARRIVALS NUMBERS WILL CONTINUE TO GROW AS CONSUMER CONFIDENCE INCREASES. COLLEAGUES, THESE ARE INDEED UNPRECENDENTED TIMES WHICH CALL FOR EXTRAORDINARY ACTIONS. TOURISM AND JAMAICA’S TOURISM INDUSTRY IN PARTICULAR, HAS REPEATEDLY BEEN CLASSIFIED AS ONE OF THE MOST RESILIENT IN THE WORLD. THE AUTHORITIES, OUR MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS, KEEP REITERING THAT WE HAVE TO “LEARN TO LIVE” WITH COVID-19. TOGETHER, WE WILL DO BETTER THAN THAT. WE WILL CARVE A NEW NORMAL THAT SEES OUR TEAMS, COMMUNITIES AND VISITORS ENJOYING THE BEST THAT JAMAICA HAS TO OFFER.

OUR FINANCIAL SITUATION AT THE JHTA IS OF UTMOST CONCERN FOR OUR SURVIVAL. ONE OF OUR MAJOR REVENUE SOURCES, PROCEEDS FROM THE OUR JAMAICA BOOK HAS DRIED UP IN RESPONSE TO THE COVID-19 PROTOCOL OF REMOVING BOOKS/MAGAZINES FROM GUEST ROOMS. SECONDLY, DUE TO THE PANDEMIC, WE HAVE DELAYED THE ANNUAL BILLING FOR MEMBERSHIP DUES WHICH USUALLY IS DONE IN MARCH/APRIL OF EACH YEAR. WE HAVE SUBSEQUENTLY ISSUED INVOICES SINCE MID AUGUST OFFERING DISCOUNTS FOR EARLY PAYMENT BY END OF AUGUST. FOR THOSE MEMBERS EXPERIENCING FINANCIAL DIFFICULTIES, I EMPATHIZE WITH YOU AND ENCOURAGE YOU TO CONTACT THE JHTA OFFICE TO WORK OUT A PAYMENT PLAN. WE NEED TO BE ABLE TO RUN THE SECRETARIAT EFFECTIVELY AND CONTINUE TO ADVOCATE ON YOUR BEHALF. SO WE NEED YOU TO BE ABLE TO WORK FOR YOU. I HAVE SERVED AS YOUR PRESIDENT FOR THE LAST FOUR YEARS. I NOW FEEL IT IS TIME FOR A NEW PRESIDENT TO BE IDENTIFIED TO MOVE THE RECOVERY PROCESS ALONG. AS WE LOOK TO THE FUTURE, I AM SURE YOUR NEW PRESIDENT WILL CONTINUE TO WORK FOR YOUR BEST INTERESTS AND ADVOCATE ON YOUR BEHALF. IN CLOSING, I WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE COUNCIL, THE VICE PRESIDENTS AND AREA CHAIRS, PAST PRESIDENTS, THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AND LADIES AT THE JHTA OFFICE WHO WORK BEHIND THE SCENES TO ENSURE THE ASSOCIATION FUNCTIONS EFFICIENTLY AND EFFECTIVELY. THANKS FOR YOUR TREMENDOUS SUPPORT. I PROMISE THAT I WILL PROVIDE THE SAME SUPPORT TO THE NEW PRESIDENT AND THE NEW ADMINISTRATION. LET US CONTINUE TO WORK TO MAKE TOURISM THE DRIVER OF ECONOMIC REBOUND FOR JAMAICA. BOTH PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SECTOR NEED TO WORK TOGETHER TO ACHIEVE THIS GOAL AND HELP TO BRING TOURISM ARRIVALS AND EARNINGS BACK TO PRE-COVID LEVELS IN THE MEDIUM TO LONG-TERM.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN THANK YOU.