Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, says the Ministry has been working overtime with local and international experts to refine all the requisite protocols, to make Jamaica the most COVID-resilient tourist destination globally.
He notes that this includes “robust” measures to safeguard the health of future visitors, when the tourism industry’s operations resumes.
“We are working towards a summer opening. Our opening is imminent, but I don’t have a date as of yet. Thank goodness, however, we are flattening the [Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID19)] curve and the rate of death has remained static,” the Minister told JIS News.
Mr. Bartlett argued that with a summer restart, the industry could record visitor arrivals averaging between 20 and 30 per cent, with the figure rounding down to 20 per cent during the fall period, before picking up to about 60 or 70 per cent over the winter season.
“We could end up with another two million visitors – somewhere around 50 per cent of last year, if we can have a summer start… between June and August,” he added.
Mr. Bartlett pointed out that the industry’s outturns for first two months of the calendar year – January and February- were “strong”.
“We had 5.5 per cent gross tourist arrivals – we brought in 1.25 million visitors and earned US$859 million dollars. That would have put us on a path to earn US$4 billion by the end of the year, with 4.5 million visitors. We were doing extremely well. However, as of March 10, the numbers fell to zero. You can imagine the horror of that moment! That’s a big blow,” he informed.
The Minister said that with the Caribbean being the most tourism-dependent region globally, there is no room for complacency, noting that regional heads have to prepare for the “ushering of a new era.”
“Before the threat of the novel coronavirus, Jamaica’s tourism sector was confidently entering into its tenth consecutive year of growth.
Following a record-breaking year in 2019, tourism receipts for January and February indicated that the sector was growing at a rate of 5.2% in 2020. Today the industry… filled with uncertainty and economic challenges… is facing a new paradigm,” Mr. Bartlett added.
He, however, lauded the work of the public health teams, under the leadership by Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr. Christopher Tufton, whom, he said, have done “a very good job in terms of containment” the COVID-19 outbreak.
Consequently, Mr. Bartlett said “we have less than 50 people in hospitals and over 100 in recovery”, which is an encouraging indicator for the future.