By: Ann Ruppenstein
Despite the impact the pandemic has had on the tourism-dependent Caribbean, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett remains hopeful about what the future holds.
“We’ve welcomed approximately 545,000 visitors since what I regard as the safe reopening of our borders from June 15 last year,” Bartlett said at the recent virtual Caribbean Travel Marketplace citing the success of Jamaica Cares and its safe travel corridor. “Another reason I think we’re experiencing a rise in visitation is our program to vaccinate Jamaica’s frontline tourism and transportation workers. Our tourism sector employs 170,000 people who are instrumental in providing a wonderful vacation experience for all our travellers. The iconic attraction of Jamaica is our warm hospitality.”
Looking for ways to increase confidence in travel, he said the destination is promoting the importance of vaccinations and close to 6,000 workers have already been vaccinated with the goal of reaching 50% of industry workers this summer.
“Despite the challenging year, I remain incredibly optimistic about the future of Jamaica’s tourism industry,” he said. “I’m happy to report that 90% of the planned tourism investments are still on track. About 4,800 rooms will be added by the end of 2023 ad I’m looking at about 7,000 rooms overall by 2025 based on the current level of investment and approvals we are giving. We think that this time in the pandemic is a real strong huge vote of confidence in our island nation.”
The room inventory includes Oceans by H10 in Trelawny; ROK Hotel and the Wyndham Hotel in Kingston; Princess Hotels in Negril; the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in St. James; a 700-room Secrets resort in St. Ann plus a Dreams resort in the Freeport area of St. James; as well, Sandals Resorts is adding another 950 rooms to their stock.
“The confidence in Jamaica remains incredibly strong and we are committed to enabling an environment to foster the development of our tourism sector,” he said. “With that, destination stewardship remains a key aspect of Jamaica’s tourism model. It is a promise to visitors that our shores are not empty, it’s a safe and seamless experience which is respectful to the community and the environment.”
Bartlett believes future travellers will crave new products in destination and as such Jamaica has invested heavily in upgrading the local infrastructure including updates to its two major airports, regenerating heritage sites and upgrading piers for cruise ships.
Bartlett says Jamaica has a goal of reaching 5 million visitors, earning $5 million and increasing the room inventory by 5,000 by 2025.
“By applying the Blue Ocean strategy, I’m confident the sector will within the first two years return to its pre-covid 19 performance for arrivals,” he said. “We’re prepared, ready and able to continue welcoming visitors to Jamaica for unmatched travel experiences. I have no doubt, that the experiences our visitors have on our island will continue to be some of their most treasured memories. Here’s to a bright future and building back stronger.”
Meanwhile, Director of Tourism, Donovan White outlined Generation Covid — the demographic Jamaica believes will emerge from the pandemic — as intergenerational, a merging of the demographics the island traditionally targeted and importantly one which was essentially ageless.
“In the current climate, the role of the travel advisor has become increasingly more important. We’re reliant on their experience, their expertise to educate travellers on the protocols we have in place to protect them. We are encouraged to see the number of visitors continue to rise as the year progresses as the pent up demand for travel begins,” he said.