Paradores and Tourism Assn. expresses concerns about latest COVID-19 executive order
By John McPhaul
The Puerto Rico Paradores and Tourism Association expressed its concern on Monday about the restrictions established in the new executive order imposing safety measures against COVID-19, which it considers unfair for responsible small local businesses, and possibly inconsistent in the war against the spread of the disease caused by the coronavirus.
In a written statement, members of the Association said they recognize that it was necessary to take additional control measures and impose sanctions in areas and against specific people in a surgical way, to avoid a crisis in the hotel industry, while they also believe that the new executive order imposes, without reason, an additional burden on the 80,000 employees and the thousands of small to midsize enterprises (SMEs) in the 17 industries that make up the island’s tourist activity, the sector most affected by the pandemic.
“In our tourism sector, more than 85% of the companies are SMEs and these actions threaten our survival,” said Jesús Ramos, president of the Association and owner of the Parador Villas Sotomayor in Adjuntas. “We are going to be watchful that the application is consistent and of how they supervise the megastores, supermarkets and chain pharmacies to ensure that they operate at 30 percent of their capacity.”
Parador owners point out that, during the past four months, data from the Municipal Case Investigation and Contact Tracking System indicate that a substantial part of coronavirus infections occur in the family environment, usually with the creation of groups at events and celebrations of relatives or between friends who do not belong to the same family group.
“To close the behavioral gaps that we observe, a cultural change and responsible behaviors are required, which can only be achieved with a massive and segmented education campaign, together with supervision and monitoring with severe penalties for those who do not comply, sustained over an extended time,” said Tomás Ramírez, co-owner of the Combate Beach Resort in Cabo Rojo. “For this purpose, we have made several timely and feasible recommendations, and very few have been considered.”
Ramos said that since the beginning of the pandemic, hotels and inns have demonstrated civic responsibility and their commitment to the protocols established by the island Tourism Company and Health Department.
“We know that the new restrictions in OE-2020-80 are going to affect the occupation in our paradores; however, there are other industries and hundreds of companies within the sector that will suffer substantially,” he said. “Our collective focus has to be on improving consistency in the use of masks and limiting the crowding of people in all environments, including the squares in some municipalities, the parties that continue to occur in short-term rental accommodations, and excess customers in some stores.”
Ramírez added that “[i]t is clear that the main responsibility for this new rise lies with our political class.”
“However, we can only work to mitigate the results, and look to the future,” he said. “We recommend that the Honorable Governor and the mayors, in addition to the State Police and the National Guard, require all agencies and employees with regulatory responsibility to provide coverage seven days a week and during the hours of most economic activity, such as the Investigations Division of the Department of Health does. If we properly organize the thousands of resources in the Municipal Police, the Natural Resources Watch Corps, PR OSHA [Puerto Rico Occupational Safety and Health Administration], the Tourism Company, the Treasury, Ports, and others, we could improve supervision and compliance, causing an immediate reduction in mass gatherings in all public settings and reduce contagion.”
Ramos stated that “[t]he Paradores of Puerto Rico are ready to continue serving the Puerto Rican people, providing a healthy and safe family atmosphere of relaxation and recreation.”
“We reiterate our support and respect for all health professionals, government agencies and organizations that fight to combat the virus,” he said.