Sat | Jun 6, 2020

Tourism numbers go limp in March

Published:Saturday | March 14, 2020 | 12:00 AMNeville Graham/Business Reporter
Kamal Bankay (left), chairman of the Carnival in Jamaica stakeholders’ committee, fields questions during a press conference at the Ministry of Tourism on Friday. Looking on are Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett and Permanent Secretary Jennifer Griffith.

The last two months of Jamaica’s winter tourist season are going cold, with arrivals expected to decline by 16 per cent for March as COVID-19 tightens its grip on global travel, says Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett.

April may be worse, Bartlett revealed, but he argued that overall arrivals should be one to two per cent up on last year – or at least flat.

But the outlook for Jamaica’s tourism prospects could darken further with the virtual shutdown of the global cruise industry and turbulence hitting airline travel as ports of entry close.

Bartlett gave the projections at the ministry’s New Kingston headquarters as he outlined a three-point plan to deal with the fallout in Jamaica’s tourist industry in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The reduction for the month of March is ... indicating a global softness overall, and Jamaica is not immune from that, which was not unexpected. We know that the nature of what is happening all across the world is going to mean that there will be significant fallout,” Bartlett said.

Earnings from tourism for 2019 are estimated at US$3.7 billion, or more than J$520 billion. This amount represents about 11 per cent of the total amount of goods and services produced.

Bartlett says the ministry cannot quantify the value of the expected haemorrhage, but was seeking to put the industry in a position to grow and thrive when the pandemic recedes.

As part of the three-point plan, the minister said that all tourism entities must immediately be engaged in a programme of risk management by sanitising common areas, installing equipment to minimise contamination, and the establishment of workstations.

Monitoring officers from the Tourism Product Development Company will be charged with maintaining agreed best practices contained in a nine-page protocol. He says the risk-management programme will supplement established operational guidelines from the Ministry of Health.

Bartlett says the ministry is rolling out a communications programme to raise the industry’s level of awareness. The tourism ministry, he said, would produce and disseminate important facts and scientific evidence.

Bartlett also announced a slate of postponements for several planned events for March and April.

Among the events postponed are the Blue Mountain Coffee Festival and Jamaica Carnival, which had its road march scheduled for April 19. Carnival has been put off to October.

neville.graham@gleanerjm.com