Jamaica's life-giving tourism product continues to shine, a flag-bearer for the national economy, despite the odds created by runaway crime.
Tourism Minister Mr Edmund Bartlett, like his predecessors going back decades, has repeatedly pointed to the difficulty in marketing the country as a visitor destination.
Yet, such has been the high standards maintained by workers and leaders in the hospitality sector, as well as the minister and his team, that he was able to boast last month of Jamaica being on target to earn in excess of US$5 billion next year. He said then that the country was expected to welcome five million visitors in 2024, one year ahead of the initial target timeline.
As explained by Mr Bartlett in October, the 2023 revenue projection was based on solid expectation that Jamaica will go pass US$4 billion in tourism earnings this year — a "huge achievement", in his words. We can't disagree given the disastrous fallout from the novel coronavirus pandemic.
A strength for Mr Bartlett is his dynamism, energy, and never-say die approach; characteristics which we believe are critical to continuing growth of the leisure industry.
A regionalist — in tourism terms at least — Mr Bartlett has consistently championed the cause of a regional multi-destinational approach, which allows visitors to enjoy offerings across borders during a single trip.
Said he in an article published in July: "A large market created by integration can promote economies of scale, sharing of economic costs and benefits, knowledge and skills transfer, and the pooling of resources to meet common goals for effectively tackling shared challenges and risks. Tourism has been identified as one of the sectors that enjoy enormous potential to promote regional integration."
No surprise, then, that according to a release from his ministry, Mr Bartlett will be leading a delegation of Caribbean ministers to Saudi Arabia later this month to "engage in a series of high-level discussions with major airlines and other leading travel and tourism investment stakeholders in the Middle East as part of efforts to broaden the scope and horizons of Caribbean tourism".
That activity will fall in the ambit of the 22nd World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, from November 28 to December 1.
Also in sync with Mr Bartlett's multi-destinational vision for Jamaica and the wider Caribbean is the inaugural flight to Kingston from Santo Domingo a few days ago of the Dominican Republic's new flagship airline, Arajet.
With typical ebullience, Mr Bartlett describes the air link as "not just a game changer, [but also] a Red Letter Day in the life of tourism aviation in the northern Caribbean, because we in the north are close to each other physically and geographically" though "distant from each other".
The minister explained that the decision to enable improved connectivity between Jamaica and the Dominican Republic "is part of a broader and wider strategy of integrating the Caribbean more, and of also creating backward connections between Central America and South America". Of course, language, culture, and history mean Latin America is much more closely linked to the Dominican Republic than Jamaica.
Such vision, we expect, will bring even more tourism growth. What if, as a country, we could bring crime under control?