Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett says important first steps taken by Jamaica to pave the way for the reopening of the tourism sector, inclusive of the crafting of a protocol for re-entry, are important signals to the market that the country is preparing to resurge from the blow dealt to the sector by COVID-19.
Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday during debate on the Tourism Workers’ Pension Scheme Regulations 2020, Bartlett said the development of the protocol, the establishment of a COVID-19 recovery task force for tourism, as well as a marketing arrangement “are important beginnings for a country to establish in the marketplace that it is not only prepared to cry about losses [and] to count numbers in terms of casualties, but that it is prepared to throw away the box and redefine and reimage the tourism industry so that Jamaica will be the first to step out and say to the world we are ready for you, come to Jamaica, everything is alright”.
He said of the 210 countries worldwide that have tourism experience, “200 of them have had COVID-19 experience, and it is the first time that aviation has been brought almost to a halt across the length and breadth of the world”.
He said this was the first time that statistics from the Jamaica Tourist Board have showed zero arrivals at both Norman Manley and Sangster international airports.
“Imagine the pain this occasioned me,” he said. “The implications of that are dire, but I just wanted to point out that the nature of this economic disruption is not just about Jamaica as it is about us in the Caribbean that is regarded as the most tourism-dependent destination on earth. Of the 20 top small countries with high tourism dependency, the Caribbean has 13 with the number one in the world being the US Virgin Islands. It was of some concern to us that the United Nations in its just published report showed that of the 33 countries that are in the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, 18 of them have GDP dependency on tourism of 40 per cent and more, so that last year US$62 billion of earnings came into the Caribbean.”
He said of note was the fact that over two million individuals in the Caribbean who were dependent on the sector are now without jobs. In Jamaica, of the 160,000 who were employed in the industry, 120,000 have been laid off with only 40,000 still working.
“The need for us to deal with this virus and flatten this curve fast is paramount… we are better than most of the destinations I have to deal with on a daily basis. We have to cooperate and follow the protocols to ensure we can get back to normal and open up our borders as soon as possible,” the tourism minister said.
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