Jamaica Prepares For A Phased Reopening

Jamaica’s minister of tourism, Edmund Bartlett offered details of Jamaica’s reopening recently, observing that “the phased reopening of our borders to international travellers on June 15 is not just about tourism. It is a matter of economic life or death.”

Bartlett told a briefing in Jamaica that: “We need to get the over 350,000 pandemic-displaced workers back to work. We need to provide some salvation to the many tourism enterprises that right now are at severe economic risk.”

However, Jamaica’s minister of tourism also made it clear that: “As I say this, I am mindful of the public sentiment that we are moving too fast and this will pose a health risk to the Jamaican people.  I want to assure you that the reopening will be carried out safely and in a way that protects our frontline tourism workers, Jamaican citizens and our visitors. As our Prime Minister stresses, we must continue to protect lives while securing our livelihoods.”

Jamaica was hit hard by COVID-19.

The Ministry of Tourism calculated that the estimated loss of direct tourism revenue to the government due to COVID-19 for April 2020 to March 2021 is J$38.4 billion. While the estimated overall loss to the economy from visitor expenditure from stopover arrivals is J$107.6 billion.

Tourism, the minister noted, is “Jamaica’s bread and butter, responsible for 9.5% of GDP, contributing 50% of the foreign exchange earnings of the economy and generating 354,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs.

And while tourism is big business, Minister Bartlett noted that 80% of those businesses are small businesses — restaurants, craft vendors, tour and transportation operators, attractions, bars, duty-free shops.  And the industry also stimulates agriculture, manufacturing and the creative economy.

As it gears up to re-open to non-nationals on June 15, Bartlett emphasized that the government doesn’t intend to “undo the good work” that has seen Jamaica contain the pandemic with “excellent results.”

To that end, Bartlett said that “non-nationals who enter [Jamaica] from June 15 will be subject to the same health and risk screening process (temperature checks, symptoms observation) as nationals.

And based on screening, if assessed to be high risk, they will be required to self-quarantine at their destination until the results are available.

The island’s reopening of its tourism industry will also be guided by a five-point recovery strategy, that includes:

  • Robust health and security protocols that will withstand local and international scrutiny.
  • Training all sectors to manage protocols and new behavioural pattern moving forward.
  • Strategies around COVID security infrastructure (PPEs, masks, infrared machines, etc.).
  • Communication with the local and international markets about reopening
  • A staggered approach to reopening/managing risk in a structured way.

Bartlett also observed that: “While implementing these health and safety protocols, we do not want them to overshadow the ‘heart and soul of Jamaica’ that makes us such an attractive destination for visitors and local alike. In other words, we do not want sanitization and physical distancing to create a sterile culture. We will continue to infuse our warmth and culture in everything we do, to remind the world that this is the #1 place to be.”

Minister Bartlett also told the briefing that he had just completed a fact-finding tour of select properties in Montego Bay and Ocho Rios.

Properties included Hospiten, Holiday Inn, Sandals Montego Bay, Sangster International Airport, Coral Cliff/Margaritaville, Deja Resorts and Jamaica Inn – in order to gauge the readiness of the industry for reopening.

And he observed of the visits that: “I am pleased by what I have seen, and I am confident in the reopening of the tourism sector in a manner that is safe and secure for tourism workers, Jamaican citizens and our visitors.”