Minister hails Jamaicans for supporting tourism industryWednesday, December 16, 2020
JAMAICANS capitalising on the decline in international tourist arrivals since the coronavirus pandemic have been key to the recovery of the industry, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett is reporting.
In a statement to Parliament yesterday, Bartlett said this is due in part to the Jamaica Tourist Board's (JTB) 'Rediscover Jamaica' campaign, launched to encourage Jamaicans to “taste, see, feel and enjoy the country's tourism product” as part of a 'staycation' package.
“With rates as low as US$70 to US$80 per person all-inclusive, locals have been flocking to the hotels on weekends for relaxation. That's a deliberate strategy because the world understands that the first response to recovery is always domestic tourism — and that's a very key aspect of the process,” said Bartlett.
He said for both the Independence and National Heroes' weekend periods several hotels recorded up to 50 per cent occupancy for local bookers.
“We're optimistic that this initiative will continue to offset the fallout from the decline in international tourism receipts and ensure continued buoyancy of the sector,” said the minister.
Bartlett said since June, when the country reopened its border to international travel, close to 318,000 visitors have arrived in the island, with foreigners accounting for approximately 230,000 of the arrivals while the Jamaican Diaspora and locals make up the rest.
However, the figure, since the reopening of the border, represents only 20 per cent of arrivals when compared to a similar period in 2019, earning the country US$450 million.
Despite this, Bartlett said stakeholders in the industry remain optimistic that there will be a 40 per cent increase in arrivals for the winter season, which began yesterday, when compared to the corresponding period “of the massive downturn”.
This, the minister said, will augur well for the 70 per cent of furloughed tourism workers.
He said airlift commitments continue to increase, with the 2021 winter season looking positive.
“The JTB is maintaining strong engagements with tour operators and airline companies to drive bookings for the winter. In a strong show of confidence for destination Jamaica our airline partners have committed 1.1 million seats for the upcoming winter tourist season as we seek to regain our strong footing in the market,” he announced.
The minister said of that number, 450,000 arrivals are from the United States.
However, he said the number of seats represents a 40 per cent decline when compared to the last winter season.
At the same time he said investors, despite the pandemic, continue to show confidence in destination Jamaica with commitments to continue projects on the table.
The projection to add 15,000 new rooms by 2023-24 is still on track, he told the House.
“The 2,000 project by Princess for Green Island in Hanover is still on track for ground-breaking to take place in January of 2021. The 700 rooms for Casino Hard Rock is still on track for ground-breaking to take place in the first quarter of next year.
“The 440-room expansion in Coral Spring in Trelawny is still on track. The Sandals development in Runaway Bay for 800 additional rooms is still on track. The 700-room sugar cane property which is phase one of the Karisma Hotel group project for some 4,500 rooms overall is still on track. The Montego Bay Sea Gardens Beach Resort is adding 800 rooms to their beachfront rooms all-inclusive property,” he said.
— Kimone Francis