BOGOTA – Workers in Colombia’s tourism and hospitality sectors held a protest on Friday on the outskirts of the country’s largest airport to demand the complete lifting of the restrictions imposed on March 25 to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Juliana Robles was among the hundred or so airline and hotel employees who took part in the rally outside Bogota’s El Dorado International Airport.
“We are marching for our right to work, our right to be heard. Because we want to return to takeoff, we want to return to connecting Colombia to the world,” she told EFE.
“We are the most bio-secure, we have all the certificates necessary to show what we can do – and we will do it very well – but we need the opportunity,” Robles said.
While the Colombian government allowed some businesses to resume operations within limitations in April, the retail and hospitality sectors continue to suffer.
The nation’s economy contracted by a record 15.7 percent in the second quarter and gross domestic product fell 7.4 percent in the first six months of 2020 compared with the same period last year, according to the National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE).
Ten of the 13 economic categories tracked by DANE suffered declines in the April-June period. The sector including retail, repairs and maintenance, transportation, lodging and food services plunged by 34.3 percent from the second quarter of 2019.
The Colombian Gastronomic Industry Association (Acodres), which represents restaurants, bakeries and cafes, is pressing the government to authorize all of those establishments to reopen on Sept. 1.
Colombia, with a population of nearly 51 million, has 522,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 16,568 deaths.
In areas of the country where the outbreak appears to have peaked, officials have approved pilot plans to reopen the hospitality sector, but Acodres rejects those initiatives as too timid.
Last week, Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez announced what she called an “open sky” strategy, which envisions closing 100 streets to vehicle traffic so restaurants and bars can resume operations with outdoor service.
But many capital restaurateurs and bar-owners are less than enthusiastic about the idea and have called for a permanent solution that accommodates the needs of the entire sector.