Jamaica records 300,000 arrivals since JuneSaturday, December 12, 2020
BY HORACE HINES
MONTEGO BAY, St James — Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett says since the June reopening of the country's borders, Jamaica has welcomed 300,000 visitors.
“Since the 15th of June when we opened… as of yesterday [Tuesday], we welcomed 300,000 visitors to the country, and in so doing we have brought in our Jamaican nationals in the mix. So we have a little over 200,000 international guests and about 80,000 or so of our own people who have come in,” Bartlett said.
He noted that the economy has gained US$150 million from the inflow of visitors that followed the border reopening, which had been closed at the onset of the pandemic to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“And, we have been able to pull back workers who we have laid off. Jobs are coming back, not as fast, of course, but jobs are coming back. And this winter we have to keep our fingers crossed because the source market from which they come are having issues,” the tourism minister said.
He said that if the current arrival trend is sustained over the winter season, then about 30 per cent of the 170,000 workers directly employed in the tourism industry should return to work.
He was speaking Wednesday at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James, at an event for the unveiling of the Road Safety Improvement Project.
The Road Safety Improvement Project spans Oracabessa in St Mary to Spot Valley in Montego Bay. Funded by the Tourism Enhancement Fund to the tune of $116 million, the project includes road markings and installations of raised pavement markers or 'cat's eyes', and forms part of the tourism ministry's effort to support improved road infrastructure and reduce accidents.
Bartlett used the opportunity to appeal to Jamaicans to adhere to the COVID-19 protocols, as he stressed that the spread of the virus across western Jamaica is a result of nonconformity.
“The spread that we have been experiencing with the virus in our communities, and a lot of them in the north-western parishes, is resulting from our not doing what we should do well,” he said.
“Wi not wearing our mask, wi not keeping physical distancing, we are having parties everywhere. We are using bike taxis to carry four and five people...we are not doing what we should be doing. We are not staying home and operating in that space as we should. Wi not working smart either, and our transportation system, we are still not following the rules of low density,” Bartlett said.
But, pointing to the establishment of the resilient corridors and the steps taken by hotels, the minister said tourism stakeholders are not those in breach of the health and safety protocols.
“...In the tourism side, we have been following the rules. Every hotel in Jamaica is now fully compliant with all security equipment and gadgets that are required to enable sanitisation... touchless approach.
“We created resilient corridor, which is now an envy in the world. That corridor has acted as a bubble for international visitors that have come into the island. We don't use the word quarantine to describe what has happened there, but the effect is that. So the spread is less likely to come from the corridor than from other areas where visitors are not international guests, but our own Jamaicans,” he insisted.
Bartlett also appealed to Jamaicans living overseas that will be coming home for the Christmas holidays to adhere to the COVID-19 protocols when they arrive.
“I want to make a special appeal, because we have cousins that are going to come, we have aunties and uncles that are going to come for Christmas; we know because we see the flights that are being booked and the bookings look good with Jamaicans coming home, and when they come home they can't avoid, sometimes, going to look for families, because we have large families and Christmas is celebration time.
“We are begging, do the right thing. Tone down the Christmas celebrations, keep the numbers that we say, within the 10 to 15, and don't expose grandma and granddad too much, because you know that that's the age group of those who are most susceptible. So when you come and you stay in the villas and so on, don't leave and go into the country parts to socialise when you know the rules that we set,” the tourism minister appealed.