Hurricane-hit C’bean islands still ‘barely functioning’, says JHTA president

By Jamaica Observer

Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) President Omar Robinson

(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – The Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) recently donated close to $3 million to support recovery efforts of islands which were ravaged by passage of hurricanes Irma and Maria last year.

“Through supporting the hospitality and tourism associations of the islands we are taking a step towards equipping the groups to drive the restoration. Some affected hotel associations are barely functioning, having lost equipment, office facilities, and staff. No funding is forthcoming as their member hotels have been severely affected by the hurricanes.” Omar Robinson, president of the JHTA, is quoted in a press statement.

The equivalent of US$22,200 was handed over to the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s (CHTA) Hurricane Relief Fund on March 2, 2018 with US$10,000 coming from the JHTA’s Charity Fund and the remainder being contributed by members of the association, including hotels, villas, tour operators, and purveyors. The donation will be shared among the affected territories’ national hotel and tourism associations (NHTAs).

The handover of the donation took place at the Jamaica Tourist Board offices, which hosted the first planning meeting of the CHTA’s travel trade show, Caribbean Travel Marketplace, set for the Montego Bay Convention Centre, Jamaica, from January 29-31, 2019.

Recognising that the islands continue to be “severely affected” by the aftermath of the hurricanes, Robinson said that his organisation was seeking “to help get this critical sector restored”.

“JHTA believes that helping the NHTAs helps the sector as a whole. Tourism is the lifeblood of many of these countries. Restoring tourism restores earnings for these countries and employment for our fellow Caribbean people,” he reasoned.

In the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria last September, several Caribbean territories, most notably Barbuda, Puerto Rico, St Maarten, and Dominica, faced challenges with sanitation, food supply, electricity, transportation, shelter, communications, among others.

Electricity has yet to be restored in sections of Puerto Rico, while residents of Barbuda have had to seek refuge in neighbouring Antigua after their island was devastated.

Subsequently, in October last year, the CHTA and the Caribbean Tourism Organization partnered in launching the Caribbean Hurricane Tourism Recovery Fund in an effort to assist affected communities and organisations in need of physical restoration of damaged attractions, cultural tourism non-profits, and jobs.

CEO and director general of the CHTA Frank Comito, on receiving the donation from the JHTA, noted: “We are touched by the unexpected generous outpouring of support, which will go a long way towards assisting the national hotel and tourism associations in Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Puerto Rico, St Maarten, and the US Virgin Islands.

“We are so pleased with the JHTA’s leadership in organising such a generous contribution by matching the support of several of its member hotels. This is the quintessential example of solidarity among the Caribbean hospitality family,” he added.

In response, JHTA Executive Director Camille Needham said: “It is important for Jamaica, as a member of Brand Caribbean, to support other islands within the region at this time. Jamaica was once the recipient of aid from the CHTA with the support of other national hotel and tourism associations when we were hit by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988.”

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