The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the tourism industry, both globally and nationally, but as with any crisis, we are looking for the opportunities instead of focusing on the setbacks.
The tourism industry is still hurting. Yet, we are seeing positive signs of buoyancy as we rebuild our tourism economy, despite the coronavirus.
Preliminary figures from the Jamaica Tourist Board indicate that since our June 15 reopening to December 14, some 317,701 passengers arrived in the island, while the sector has earned over 450 million US dollars.
We are cautiously optimistic that we will see a 40% increase in arrivals over the winter season when compared to the preceding periods of massive downturn. This augurs well for the 70% of our furloughed tourism workers who are still off the job.
As a sector, we have been working together tirelessly from the onset of the pandemic to minimize its impact here in Jamaica and to safeguard our vital tourism sector.
I am pleased to say this united effort is paying off handsomely as we take bold and decisive steps to safeguard tourism workers, visitors and residents.
I am confident that the tourism sector will rebound as it has done many times before. I will remind you that tourism has been the most resilient sector of the national economy over the past 30 years, having expanded by 36% against total cumulative economic growth of 10%.
Our leading-edge COVID-19 tourism recovery programme has allowed for the seamless and safe reopening of our borders. Destination resilience has been the centrepiece of the recovery plan for the sector with an emphasis on the development and enforcement of rigid health and safety protocols.
From as far back as March, when the first wave of the coronavirus was reported in China, we announced measures to be adopted by all tourism entities to minimize the spread of the virus.
These measures had three main components – developing the required infrastructure, providing support to the Ministry of Health & Wellness, and educating all stakeholders about the COVID-19 virus.
Specially assigned staff from the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), who are a part of the Stakeholder Risk Management Unit, along with members of the COVID-19 resilient corridor management team, have been closely monitoring the implementation of these measures to ensure strict compliance.
Our protocols, which received the global endorsement of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), complement our highly successful Resilient Corridors to the north and south of the island, designed to keep workers, communities and visitors safe by only opening an area that we have the capacity to effectively monitor and manage.
To date, there has been no known case of transmission of COVID-19 along the Resilient Corridors, which is proof that our highly regarded health and safety protocols are working and testament to the high level of compliance by tourism stakeholders.
This is why, internationally, Jamaica is regarded as a leading example of how to create a safe and seamless travel experience for our visitors.
Naturally, because of the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, we are constantly reviewing and revising our health and safety measures.Download Full Speech