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Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, is calling on Jamaicans to help build out and develop rural areas as the nation continues its path of recovery from the negative effects of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

During his address at the Tourism Awareness Week Webinar for 2020, which was held at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel today (October 2) under the theme ‘Tourism and Rural Development’, Mr. Bartlett said that the rural communities, which depend highly on tourism to survive, would recover, but emphasis needs to be placed on their development.

“Tourism is that catalyst which enables quick recovery after global shocks, and this pandemic with all its negative impact does not, and will not prevent tourism from bouncing back and doing so quickly,” Mr. Bartlett said.

“And, part of the reason is its capacity for immediate convertibility of the resource [foreign dollars],” he added.

Mr. Bartlett called for more focus to be placed on the development of rural areas to help with the increase in demand from tourists and more arrivals.

“If we truly want tourism to be the heartbeat of Jamaica’s economy, then we must exploit the considerable potential of our rural communities,” he said.

“Building out a community tourism framework is a critical act to the sustainability and growth of the sector, and indispensable to the diversification of our tourism product,” the Minister added.

He said more importantly, building out community tourism will spur rural development, and by so doing, contribute to the economic empowerment of rural citizens.

In the last seven months, the COVID-19 pandemic and its containment measures have severely tested the resilience of the global tourism economy.

Unfortunately, both at home and abroad, COVID-19 has resulted in major job losses, while the fallout in business and earnings has been astounding.

Pre-pandemic, there were some 1.5 billion international tourist arrivals. Travel and tourism back then accounted for some 10.3 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) and employed one in 10 of all the persons around the world.

In the last year, Mr. Bartlett said, Jamaica welcomed some 4.3 million visitors and the sector earned US$3.7 billion, contributing 9.5 per cent of the nation’s GDP and generating some 170,000 jobs directly.

Also, in the year 2019, Jamaica generated nearly 40,000 new jobs in a single year from tourism.

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