Bartlett forecasts 1.5 million visitors this year
In this file photo Carnival Sunrise passenger Valerie Brewer accepts a face mask from Hugh Clarke, manager of the Ocho Rios Port, as she makes her way to a tour bus when the cruise ship called on the destination last month. At centre is passenger Adina Sabet.

Edmund Bartlett yesterday forecast Jamaica welcoming a total of 1.5 million visitors this year and earning more than US$2 billion from tourism.

Bartlett, the tourism minister, made the prediction yesterday while giving a parliamentary update on the forecast for Jamaica's performance as a vacation destination amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Our tourism industry continues to show its resilience as it rebounds from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic. The diligence, hard work, and unity shown by our tourism stakeholders over the last 18 months is paying off, as we rebuild a safe, seamless, and secure destination, and brand Jamaica reclaims its competitive position in the global market,” said Bartlett, who is also leader of government business in the House of Representatives.

“Cruise is back, our arrivals figures are climbing, airlift for the winter season is looking good, 90 per cent of planned investments remain on target, and many of our 170,000 tourism workers are back on the job. This is welcome news because tourism is so critical to Jamaica's post-pandemic recovery,” he added.

He said that since the reopening of the country's borders in June 2020,

a total of 1,285,368 visitors, including 1,276,987 stopovers and 8,381 cruise visitors, were welcomed up to September this year, which has resulted in US$ 1.7 billion in earnings.

“In fact, on August 15 Jamaica's tourism industry marked a significant milestone when we welcomed our one millionth stopover visitor in just 14 months,” he pointed out.

He said that August 16 saw the successful return of cruise operations, after a 16-month hiatus, with the arrival of the Carnival Sunrise at the Ocho Rios Cruise Shipping Port. The return of cruise visitors signalled the second critical phase of the reopening of the tourism industry, and will aid greatly in bringing back much-needed jobs, he explained.

“Cruise is an integral part of our tourism product and an important driver in terms of visitor arrivals and expenditure. Thousands of Jamaicans depend on the cruise shipping industry. With Carnival's schedule of some 16 calls over the next three months, the return of MSC Meraviglia, as well as Royal Caribbean, Disney and other cruise lines preparing to resume sailing the Caribbean Sea, we should have cruise fully back on track by December, with pretty much the full fleet,” Bartlett said.

“We are projecting just under 300,000 cruise passengers to Jamaica by end of year, by which time the Montego Bay and Falmouth ports should also be reactivated with hopes of having calls also at Port Royal and Port Antonio,” he said.

He added that the return of cruise ships was managed in accordance with strict health and safety COVID-19 protocols, which are guided by global standards and best practices, to ensure the safety and protection of Jamaicans as well as visitors.

In addition, the vessels are managed in alignment with the Conditional Sailing Order for Simulated and Restricted Voyages promulgated by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Prior to the arrival of the cruise ships, the Ministry of Tourism, along with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, and the Port Authority of Jamaica visited the Ocho Rios port to sensitise stakeholders, particularly about the importance of taking the COVID-19 vaccine.

By Balford Henry Senior Staff Reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

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