WILLEMSTAD - CHATA, as an advocate of the tourism and hospitality sector of Curaçao, has been considering the serious situation we are currently facing once again due to the current measures. No one had expected or hoped that the economy would face a second partial lockdown, and yet this is our reality today.
Before COVID-19, the tourism and hospitality sector accounted for no less than 40% of our economy. Over the past ten years, the sector has grown into the largest economic pillar, even larger than the financial sector, in Curaçao and offers more than 16,000 jobs. Some may not realize this, that's why we also refer to our sector as the “beating heart” of Curaçao. This economic engine, which brings more than just bread to the table for many families on the island,” emphasizes CHATA Managing Director, Mrs. Maria-Helena Seferina.
This second, albeit partial, lockdown puts us in another major crisis. The hotels and various affiliated companies and suppliers hardly have any income and they are making large losses. Employees are forced to be sent home or even fired, with all the socio-economic consequences that entails. Nevertheless, we understand that the current drastic measures in favor of healthcare are necessary to turn the tide. Therefore, we as CHATA also emphasize our full involvement and dedication in complying with the measures. After all, a safe Curaçao is the most important thing for our community and our economy and it is a priority for tourists when choosing their holiday destination. Together with our partners CTB, TUI, CAP, KLM, C15, Casha and the CRA, we still hope that light relaxation will soon be possible, such as drive thru and / or pick up at restaurants to be able to attract tourists back to our island again in a safe way. CHATA and the aforementioned partners are happy to offer any support and cooperation in this. However, CHATA believes that a rapid rescue is needed to avoid a complete collapse of the industry, leading to even higher unemployment.
Large-scale rapid rescue
What does CHATA mean by a rapid rescue? By this we mean the joint team-up of Government and private sector to save what has virtually been lost and regain trust in recovery of our economy. A large-scale public-private rescue is the only way to face the catastrophic losses our economy has already suffered from COVID-19. CHATA has therefore submitted a concrete proposal, which has been developed jointly with other partners in the sector:
1. The TVL and NOW must be expanded. Now 60% of the gross salary is being reimbursed instead of 60% of the employer's costs. The maximum, the so-called "cap", should also be increased. Too many companies are not eligible, or are delayed and with great difficulty in receiving financial aid. The current fixed costs and salary costs are much higher than the compensation offered under these arrangements. In addition, all reserves were used during the first lockdown and the months that followed. Experience shows that a reasonable recovery takes more than 3-5 months;
2. Second, CHATA is calling on all local financial institutions to offer "COVID-19 Sensitive", also known as "Bounce Back Loan" programs. Similar programs are already taking place in other countries around the world, providing concrete and rapid relief to the business community and thus delivering successful results.
Besides the additional financial support, CHATA is pleased that the vaccination program is being scaled up drastically and that we as Curaçao are showing how combative we are. The aim to offer 80% of the population a first injection by the end of April is powerful and also shows the outside world that we cannot be beaten. To show our support, the sector, together with sector affiliated organizations, has offered free meeting rooms, ballrooms and staffing from CHATA members in order to further scale up the number of injection locations. We are happy to offer our support to help the island through this difficult period as quickly as possible. On the other hand, preliminary research is also being done, for example, on the possibilities that vaccination passports should be introduced to the travel industry. We are happy to offer our support in all these initiatives to help the economy through this difficult period as quickly as possible.
“In times of crisis, we show our true character and an effective attitude and cooperation between all different parties is crucial”, says Mrs. Maria-Helena Seferina. Even though there is despair for the tourism and hospitality sector and many are near, we trust in a brighter future and will not give up! That is why we are making a dramatic appeal to the authorities of our island, both the current outgoing Cabinet and the future Government, as well as the banks and other financial institutions, to join forces and fight this economic crisis together. The industry's cry for help is clear: “Our economy also needs “respiratory equipment”. Only with concrete extra financial support will the heart of our economy be able to continue beating.”