Jamaican Promoters Pushing for Reopening of Entertainment Industry

Jamaica’s tourism industry is now on a clear path to recovery, months after reopening its borders after a complete lockdown. Hotels, beaches, and tourist attractions are open; and the island has seen a slew of celebrity visitors since the start of the pandemic, from actress Gabrielle Union and retired basketball player, Dwayne Wade, rapper Kanye West, to singers Justine Skye and Giveon.

But while the tourism industry pushes forward, stakeholders in the entertainment industry are expressing dissatisfaction with the government.

The Managing Director of Dream Entertainment, Scott Dunn, is among the scores of local promoters who have lashed out at the government for keeping the industry closed.

In an open letter, Dunn outlined the extreme challenges faced over the past 10 months not only by his company, but industry players at all levels – from street-side vendors to promotional groups, production technicians and sound system operators, as well as ancillary staff including cleaning crews.

“The Government is killing a multi-billion dollar industry and starving its dependents,” wrote Dunn.

He also addressed what he describes as “hypocrisy” on the part of the Government, by scolding party promoters for holding “illegal events”, while politicians were initially allowed to campaign leading up to the September 2020 general elections.

“Truthfully, the biggest hypocrisy of all is the assertion that its events that caused our summer spike in cases, whilst the campaigning of thousands of maskless people shaking hands, hugging, and shouting (releasing droplets) is somehow guiltless. All this in a country that if I choose to rent the National Stadium or Sabina Park, I would be breaking the law to have 16 people there, even if they social distanced, sanitized and wore masks.” the letter stated.

The government had reopened the entertainment industry in July 2020, but later announced a ban on all events following a deadly second wave of the virus.

Dunn said that the Jamaican government has not offered any stimulus support even though two events hosted by his company, Dream Weekend and Carnival, are major tourism events that bring in an estimated $9 billion annual revenue.

He pointed out that the alternative is now for promoters and artists to look to Florida, Atlanta, and Mexico to host events as those locations remain open in spite of the pandemic.

Many Jamaican musicians have found a new market for their talents in South Florida, one of the regions with the largest concentration of Caribbean nationals in the United States. Promoters have also taken their events to the region. Dunn is currently marketing the Tampa edition of Dream Weekend.

Dunn noted that Jamaican citizens are allowed to fly out of the island to party and return to the island, but not allowed to party while in Jamaica. The government had previously noted concern about this trend.

The promoter said that he knows the government still needs to protect its citizens from the virus. “Honestly, we don’t want to run loose and crazy – that’s what the illegal operators are doing already. We want protocols, we want guidelines… whatever it takes to operate, please just tell us.”

Local artistes like Bounty Killa, Tanya Stevens and Ce’Cile have echoed his sentiments.

In responding to the outcry, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said that the government has heard the concerns and is working to address the issues.

“I am very sensitive to what has been pointed out by certain interests, who say that unlike the tourism industry, they can’t operate. I want these persons to know that the government is working to ensure that we can return to normalcy as soon as possible. We are protecting lives and livelihoods but it is an incredibly difficult balancing act,” he said.

Holness said that his government “does get some things wrong, but once it is pointed out through the media or elsewhere, we will try to take the necessary actions to bring balance.”

Holness said that beginning next week, the relevant ministries will discuss how and when the entertainment industry can resume events.

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