COVID-19 Uncertainty Reveals Tourism Industry’s Vulnerability

Royalton Blue Waters Beach, Montego Bay, JA

COVID-19 packs a dreadful punch on a number of levels.

The respiratory virus has led to emergency lockdowns that have left the global economy in free-fall. And travel bans have decimated the hospitality and tourism industry.

Initially, the messaging from the hospitality industry has recognized the value in reminding everyone to stay home, to regularly wash their hands and practice good respiratory hygiene.

When travel bans are finally lifted and people are ready to vacation abroad again, hotel brands will need to promote their properties with considerable sensitivity. They will want to remind us of what we once enjoyed about travel and our favorite destinations.

In the hospitality and tourism industry, staff regularly show empathy toward customers. Now, more than ever, hotel and tourism brands need to express genuine concern both toward and for the well-being of staff, guests, neighbors and the wider community.

Instead of a message of wish you were here, the hospitality and tourism industry needs to convey a different message: Thinking of you.

Many hotel and tourism organizations are already finding new ways to engage with, or entertain, people sheltering in place. Some properties are demonstrating concern for neighbors and community. While others are making efforts to care for the well-being of their staff.

According to the Jamaica Gleaner, management at Sunset at the Palms in Negril, Jamaica, expressed concern for staff and provided 115 laid-off employees with food packages and money. Staff and management are also connected through a WhatsApp group.

The all-inclusive https://www.thepalmsjamaica.com/ announced its temporary closure around March 20th. At that time, management floated a plan to reopen on April 17th. That date has  since become a moving target.

First, the date for reopening changed to May 1st. But air and sea ports remained closed past May 31st. The latest update? Management now plans to accept new arrivals on July 1st.

Royalton resorts temporarily closed The Royalton Blue Waters https://www.royaltonresorts.com/royalton-blue-waters on March 25, 2020 to protect guests and staff. At the time, they were unable to confirm a re-opening date.

I wrote about the destination wedding I attended at that all-inclusive in Montego Bay, Jamaica, in an earlier post. Unfortunately, I never read word of any food or monetary gifts being extended to laid-off employees.

Luxury properties like the Hari Hotel in Belgravia, London are doing their bit to make the lockdown a little less stressful for others. Neighbors looking for help with shopping and errands can contact https://www.thehari.com/usa-luxury-london/ for  assistance.

The Four Seasons New York is working to find housing for the valiant doctors, nurses and other medical personnel who are treating COVID-19 patients.

The Greece from Home website https://www.greecefromhome.com/  promotes Greek tourism with images of Greek archeology, museums, walking tours and cuisine to inspire site visitors to dream and explore the country’s offerings, the safe and digital way, until “we’re able to meet again.”

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Fun In The Sun At Royalton Blue Waters, Jamaica

Royalton Blue Waters’ resort entrance

An invitation to a winter wedding in Jamaica provided the perfect opportunity to trade heavy winter coats and boots for the sun’s caress.

Our wedding party ranged in age from preschooler to senior, Senior.

For some, the event offered a first visit to Jamaica while for others, who emigrated from the Island years ago, Jamaica will always be home.

A sizeable, furnished balcony provided us with a breathtaking view of the azure-colored ocean along with about 1,500- metres of beach.

The  luxury, all-inclusive’s many amenities included 228 suites (ocean-view, swim-out and garden); a lazy river; private cabanas with plunge pools; three pools, seven bars, 11 restaurants and Kids and Teens’ Clubs.

Balcony View of the Lazy River and the resort property
Balcony view of the property

Our group of three adults spent very little time in the junior suite of 570 square feet. With new and extended family to connect with, there was lots to do and explore.

Ocean-view suite
A suite with a beautiful Jacuzzi

Aside from the wedding that brought us together, I’ll treasure times spent conversing or sitting quietly, surrounded by extended family as we each savored our individual Scoops’ self-serve soft ice milk. My favorite: The chocolate and vanilla blend.

Other wonderful moments include, quiet walks along the beach at dawn.

The day I waded into the cold water to perch on an underwater stool at Dips’ swim-up bar. And I enjoyed the novel experience, along with a second pina colada, made with far-too-strong, for me, Appleton rum.

Dips' Swim-Up Bar at dawn
Dips’ Swim-Up Bar at sunrise

The server at The Jerk Hut who was almost out of jerk chicken but kindly served me the last piece of the day. A lovely employee at the breakfast buffet, who noted my disappointment when I couldn’t find my favorite treat. She returned with a huge serving of banana bread for me. Many of the staff went out of their way to make the holiday a memorable one for their guests.

Most precious of all, one evening, I thrilled at my mother, who abruptly jumped from her seat to dance to the live band’s rendition of a Bruno Mars’ song.

The funny thing about vacations…just as I finally start to get into a rhythm and establish a routine, it’s check-out time.

After sampling the baked goods, I decided my daily breakfast treat (banana bread or bread pudding) and the hottest and fastest morning latte (at the hotel lobby bar) were an absolute must.

I also figured out that the exits at the side or back of the hotel, provided quicker access to the breakfast buffet.

How sweet life can be–in the Caribbean winter sunshine

According to Carib Journal, almost 400,000 Canadians visited Jamaica in 2019. The tourism industry is responsible for 25% of the Island’s labour force.

The Royalton Blue Waters’ resort opened in November 2016 as part of Sunwing Travel Group’s growth into resort management and ownership.

Guests at the Blue Waters’ location are invited to play at the adjacent Royalton White Sands property that opened in 2013. Three years ago, the White Sands received the Best Family Resort award from the Jamaica Gleaner.

The Royalton Blue Waters has received a number of awards: In 2019, 2018, the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence. In 2019, The Jamaica Gleaner’s Hospitality Award for Best All-Inclusive under 300 rooms in Jamaica and in 2020, 2019 and 2017, the American Automobile Association’s (AAA) Four Diamond Award.

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