Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, says he is satisfied that adequate systems have been put in place at the Sangster International Airport for the return of visitors to the island.
He was speaking to JIS News following a visit to the airport in Montego Bay on Sunday (June 14) along with officials from the Ministry of Health and Wellness and tourism stakeholders.
Jamaica is set to welcome its first set of tourists on Monday (June 15), since the closure of the country’s borders to international travel on March 24 as part of measures to contain local transmission of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Between 5,000 and 6,000 visitors are expected up to June 30.
“We had a walk-through of all areas of the airport through which the passengers will travel – with special emphasis on Immigration and Customs – before being tested for signs of the coronavirus prior to departing the airport for their respective vacation spots,” Minister Bartlett told JIS News.
“I am confident that the logistics are in place to enable as seamless a process as is possible for the dawning of a new era in tourism,” he added.
Minister Bartlett told JIS News that measures have been introduced at the airport to facilitate social distancing consistent with stipulated health protocols.
“Furnishings within the airport have been rearranged, while there is technology to capture the temperature of passengers and sanitisation stations installed to satisfy health requirements under COVID-19,” he noted.
He commended all partners and players, whom, he said, “have been working overtime to make sure that all parts come together effectively.”
“We are really hoping that our locals and visitors alike will have an experience that they will be comfortable with while bearing in mind the many challenges posed by this pandemic. This is a very unique situation and we are doing our best to manage it properly,” he said.
“We also ask for understanding that this is not perfection, but, certainly, what we have done is to put in place that which will enable a start on which we can now continue to work,” he added.
Minister Bartlett told JIS News that the reopening of the country to tourists is a crucial step in securing the economic well-being of the country and its residents.
“Our economy stands to lose more than $145 billion for the year if tourism is not reopened – $38 billion for the public sector and $107 billion for the industry. If you were to think about that on a daily basis, that is $400 million per day,” he pointed out.
He noted, further, that “350,000 workers are involved in the tourism sector. Those workers need to work, they need income and, importantly, 93 per cent of the tourism workers we surveyed want or need to return to work”.
He said workers across nearly every industry in Jamaica will benefit from the re-opening of the sector, citing banks and insurance companies as important parts of the tourism ecosystem.
“It is based on these factors that we have decided to reopen our borders to tourism. However, we are committed to reopening in a safe and controlled manner to protect our most treasured asset – our people,” Mr. Bartlett said.