Bartlett bullish as tourism rebounds
Jamaica records one million visitors since reopening after COVID-19 lockdownMonday, August 16, 2021
BY HORACE HINES
MONTEGO BAY, St James — Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett has attributed the recovery of the tourism sector, which yesterday marked the one millionth stopover arrival since June 15 last year, as a major fillip to the strong economic recovery touted by Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke.
Clarke pointed to strong government revenues for the April to June 2021 quarter as a sign of an economic rebound from the onslaught of the novel coronavirus.
“Over the period, tax revenues performed better than budgeted and tax revenues from all three major tax types improved substantially over last year,” Clarke said in a statement issued to the Jamaica Observer.
Bartlett declared that he was proud to see tourism's contribution to the performance of the economy.
“So, when we examine what has tourism done for that and that's what also gives me a sense of pride today [yesterday] that in this quarter under review tourism increase by 5,000 per cent in arrivals and our earnings increased by 3,900 per cent. So, we have no doubt as to the impact of tourism on the economic recovery programme and the numbers that were announced today [yesterday] by the minister of finance.
“I listened with pride and with great joy as our finance minister reported on the performance of the economy in the first quarter of this year, where we were able to reverse a negative position, which was in double digits, to be looking at the possibility of a seven to nine per cent increase in growth, which would be unprecedented in many, many, many decades,” said Bartlett.
The tourism minister was speaking yesterday at the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay after welcoming the one millionth stopover visitor to the country since the reopening of borders which were shuttered as a result of the pandemic.
He argued that it was no mean feat that for the first time in Jamaica's history, starting from scratch, it was welcoming one million visitors in just one year and a month.
“Today [yesterday] is a milestone achievement in the tourism annals. Never before within a year and a month have we ever had one million stopover visitors coming. As a matter of fact, when we accumulate stopover and cruise the record is still there because it took us close to 20 years of recording numbers to reach the first one million of both cruise and stopover visitors.
“And all of you recall that on March 20, 2020 [the country had] zero tourist arrivals into Jamaica from both cruise and stopover. Zero earnings for the two,” Bartlett added.
“And so, the achievement of this million visitors means that we now have generated, since the opening on the 15th of June, 2020, a little over US$1.5 billion of foreign exchange earnings.”
He further argued that, “we've been able to bring back the workers. It is to record that when we closed the borders we sent nearly 130,000 workers furloughed or laid off completely, or having a day a week or so. And since we have returned, more than 50,000 workers have come back to work in the tourism sector. That's the accommodation sector and its immediately related areas,” Bartlett said. Adding that it is significant that some 50 per cent of the foreign currency derived over the period has been maintained in the country, Bartlett stressed the positive impact of the arrivals on the various sectors.
“So the one million visitors have also meant that our agriculture sector has been able to respond and to produce, our manufacturing sector in a similar way, energy, water and various the other services,” said Bartlett.
In the meantime the one millionth visitor, Daynel Williams, who was accompanied by her parents and her two children, Keona Francis and Keon Francis, was overjoyed at the reception received from the arrival party, headed by Bartley and a number of tourism officials.
“I was not expecting this,” said Williams.
Her mother, an emotional Jennifer Williams, broke down in tears as they were showered with gifts.
“I have been travelling back and forth to Jamaica for over 30 years now and this has never happened. I am so excited,” the St Mary native said with tears streaming down her cheeks.