In keeping with the need for social distancing, at an online meeting held by the Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association with its members on the morning of March 25th, the COVID-19 Industry Impact Assessment survey results were presented. The meeting also discussed advocacy measures that the DHTA will continue to discuss with The Government as they work together towards containment and recovery. The meetings become increasingly important as the sharp downturn in the Tourism sector triggered by COVID-19 continues to negatively impact the industry. With Dominica confirming its 11th case, the harrowing reality is that the economic challenges may be as devastating as the health concerns posed. Special presenters at the meeting included Mr. Frank Comito, CEO of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association and the Deputy Director of the Dominica Social Security, Mr. Augustus Etienne.
While the full extent of the impact cannot yet be fully measured, the Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association has sought to collect insight from its members to ascertain the extent of that impact. As of March 25th 2020, preliminary data among 25 members, across all subsectors, indicates:
- Current average hotel occupancy sits at 12% as hotels rapidly race to 0% occupancy. Several accommodations have already closed their doors and more closures are inevitable.
- 68% of respondents are contemplating layoffs if the situation worsens. The first round of layoffs is coming and it is important to have a plan to secure these citizens and their livelihoods.
- To date, losses due to cancellations exceed USD $3,000,000 and growing. When quantifying loss, this figure represents only the Accommodation subsector. The Association plans on conducting further surveys and assessments to understand the impact in other subsectors such as cruise, dive and other tourism services.
In his address to the membership Mr. Comito advised that “The data from Tourism statistics indicate that it will get worse before it gets better”. He also encouraged members to use the online resource from the CHTA through their portal http://www.caribbeanhotelandtourism.com/covid-19 and be open to sharing information with relevant authorities. “We have been in touch with NHTAs (National Hotel and Tourism Associations), as we go through this, and will be coming back from it, we need to give the traveller assurances that we are doing everything to protect the health and safety of guest and workers.”
The membership also heard from Mr. Augustus Etienne, Deputy Director of the Dominica Social Security. Of particular interest to the association was the use of a redundancy fund that could be triggered for those employees that qualify. Mr. Etienne remarked, in summary, that “This fund was administered on behalf of the Ministry of Labour and was established to provide benefit to employees who were made redundant by employers. DSS is also advising the Prime Minister on the issues and is in discussion with key stakeholders like the Dominica Employer’s Federation (DEF). He further stated that “The mandate of DSS is established in law; These are extraordinary times so the requirements of the law need to be considered to understand what can be done in this situation, but these things will take time as they need legislative authority.”
In her address to the membership, President of the Association, Mrs. Marvlyn Alexander James, outlined the DHTA’s key advocacy points. “Over the past weeks, the DHTA has been making recommendations to government on measures to mitigate the spread of the virus and flatten the curve early, thereby minimizing the shock on the healthcare systems and the tourism industry” Mrs. Alexander James outline the association’s priority advocacy package points as:
- Support for persons who have been laid off or on no pay leave.
- Support for owners of small businesses and self-employed persons.
- None-collateralized loans through the AID Bank for working capital.
- Moratorium on VAT and Loan payments.
In his final message of hope to the membership the CEO of CHTA, Mr. Frank Comito, took the opportunity to encourage the membership. “We will get through this and we will be better ultimately as a result if it despite these dark clouds we have hovering over us, the Caribbean is incredibly filled with sunshine. The kind of things that the world is going to need to recover. We will, if we are smart, if we manage this right now as properties and as countries and destinations, we will get through this and we will be a go-to spot for the world as they gain confidence that the can travel again for wellness, for recovery and so on. We can help the world to heal. The Caribbean is well positioned to come out of this but here will be tremendous amount of short-term pain in the process.”
The Association advocates good hygiene practices, social distancing and staying up to date in these times.
Operating as a membership-based tourism development organization for over five decades, the Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association is a focal point for the tourism industry in Dominica. The DHTA assumes a leadership role in the industry, and acts as a catalyst for enabling Dominica’s tourism economy to reach its full potential to the benefit of our current and future members, visitors, investors and travel partners, citizens and the Commonwealth of Dominica.