Jamaica’s minister of tourism Edmund Bartlett recently revealed that 75% of the country’s tourism workers have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The island’s borders have been closed to incoming passengers for almost a month, resulting in the closure of several major hotels on the island including Sandals Resorts.
As a result, thousands of hospitality workers have been laid off.
Bartlett revealed that of the 160,000 people that work in Jamaica’s tourism industry, 120,000 of those workers have already been laid off, meaning that only 25 per cent of the workers directly employed to the industry are still working.
In addition, the 40,000 of them who are still employed are working for either two days or three days a week, for a fraction of their normal pay from the hotels.
“So, in essence, 120,000 or 75 per cent of the workers employed directly to the industry are now laid off”, he explained. “That’s significant for us to consider when we are looking at how hard all of us have to work. All of us have to work hard to ensure that our unemployment figures hold only for a short period of time, because the longer the period of time that it holds is the more dire the straits will be,” Bartlett warned.
Many of those now unemployed have turned to the government for as much help as they can get. Jamaica’s ministry of finance has been providing COVID-19 relief for those that have been laid off since the virus entered the island. Others will have to depend further on family and friends from the diaspora to send remittances until the industry bounces back and jobs are restored.
Bartlett noted that for the first two months of the year, Jamaica was doing “very well” with tourism, earning US$859 million.
“So everything was going well and we brought in just a little over a million visitors, in fact. So the trajectory was positive and strong. What we want to do is to get back into the [groove] as quickly as possible, so that the earnings for Jamaica can, in fact, be restored,” he stated.
The entire Caribbean region, which relies heavily on tourism, is likely to see drastic effects as a result of COVID-19. Bartlett said that the region is likely to lose some US$62 billion in foreign exchange earnings this year, and some 2.4 million workers are being affected.