KINGSTON, Jamaica — Tourism Minister, Edmund Bartlett says the tourism industry is a key driver of the Jamaican economy and urges stakeholders to view the unprecedented crisis brought on by the pandemic as a transformational opportunity to help get tourism back on track.
Speaking at the opening of the first-ever virtual staging of the Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX), the minister said, “Tourism must get back on track. Pre-pandemic, there were 1.5 billion international tourist arrivals; travel and tourism accounted for 10.3 per cent of global GDP, and it employed on in 10 persons around the world. At home, as we welcomed 4.3 million visitors, the sector earned US$3.7 billion, contributed 9.5% per cent to the nation’s GDP and generated some 170,000 direct jobs.”
Bartlett noted that the Government is doing its part to rebuild the economy and tourism will play a key role. He shared that despite COVID-19, proactive measures were being implemented that will ensure a tourism product that is safe, attractive for visitors, and economically viable for all tourism stakeholders.
Despite the challenges caused by the pandemic, Bartlett remained cautiously optimistic as data from the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) indicated that the industry is slowly rebuilding.
Preliminary JTB figures indicated that since reopening on June 15, the country has recorded a little over 211,000 passengers to the island; June to September earnings amounted to US$231.9 million, and hotel occupancy rates are slowly inching up. A 40 per cent increase in arrivals over the winter season when compared to the preceding periods of massive downturn, is also projected.
“In terms of airlift, most of the major airlines serving the destination are increasing service as the demand picks up. These include the following airlines in the Americas: American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, United, Southwest, Air Canada, WestJet, and Copa,” he said.
The ministry noted that Expedia also reported that searches for Jamaica’s Montego Bay rose 15 per cent in July, and Jamaica was among the most-searched-for destinations in the Caribbean.
“I have received reports that some of our hotel properties have reported that they are reaching up to 60 per cent occupancy through a combination of international and local guests, with numbers reaching nearly 90 per cent around holiday weekends,” he said.
The Jamaica Product Exchange JAPEX is the premier trade event and the single most important business generator for Jamaica’s tourism industry. It facilitates pre-scheduled appointments for leading wholesalers and tour operators with hundreds of Jamaica’s leading tourism suppliers to conduct business negotiations.
Since its 1990 inception, JAPEX has been a joint project of The Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) and the Jamaica Tourist Board. It is supported by every Jamaican organisation involved in the development, promotion and sale of the Island’s tourism product.
According to the organisers, the three-day event, which is being held virtually this year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, has more than 2,000 buyer and supplier delegates, travel agents and media representatives from countries such as the UK, USA, Canada, China, India, Russia, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, and Argentina.