Despite the major blow that the COVID-19 pandemic has dealt the global tourism industry, Jamaica’s Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett says there is a silver lining. It has provided an opening, he says, for Jamaica to build on previous efforts to ensure equity in accessing the benefits of the sector.
“Our mission has always been to create a tourism product where the vast benefits are distributed fairly across society. This is being done through our linkages’ programmes, community tourism initiatives, and the training and certification of our tourism workers. We believe that tourism is as much about the farmer, craft vendor, entertainer, and transportation provider as it is about the hotelier, restauranteur, and attraction operator,” he said in remarks prepared for a church service to kick off the country’s Tourism Awareness Week which runs until October 2.
“The silver lining is that the COVID-19 crisis has provided the opportunity for us to reimagine this resilient industry and build on these initiatives to better achieve this mandate,” Bartlett added. “Sustainability and inclusivity are integral to the recovery process. Therefore, as we seize the opportunities in the crisis, we are implementing strategic measures to rebuild a product that is safe, equitable and generates economic opportunities for average Jamaicans.”
The Ministry of Tourism’s Blue Ocean Strategy, as previously outlined, is its roadmap to achieve five million visitors, $5 billion in earnings and 5,000 new rooms by 2025.
“It will require a shift in mind-set as we seek to uncover hidden opportunities in the tourism industry in these times of economic uncertainty. Instead of focusing on head-to-head competition and gaining market share, we will innovate to capture new demand with a diversified portfolio of authentic attractions and activities that draw heavily on Jamaica’s natural and cultural assets,” said the minister. “This will necessitate further training to build the capacity of our people; renewing our focus on destination assurance; leveraging our culture and heritage to tell the unique Jamaican story; making music a more predominant and inclusive part of the visitor experience; and creating programmes to get visitors out of the hotels to experience authentic Jamaica.”
He also provided an update on the sector’s rebound now underway, noting that 90 per cent of planned investments remain on target, arrival numbers continue to increase and earnings of US$1.2 billion for the first nine months of the year are up 22 per cent over 2020 figures.
“This is a remarkable achievement and is a clear indication of greater things to come as the sector continues to rebound. Furthermore, many of our tourism workers are back on the job; and we have seen the successful return of cruise operations,” he says.
Before the onslaught of COVID-19, Jamaica’s tourism sector had a record-breaking 2019 in terms of arrivals and earnings. The country welcomed 4.2 million visitors, earned US$3.7 billion in revenue and generated some 354,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs.