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Bartlett credits tourism for 2021 third-quarter growth

Published:Monday | January 3, 2022 | 12:10 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

Leading the country’s economic recovery, Jamaica’s tourism sector is being credited as the linchpin for the island’s three consecutive quarters of growth, which the economy is now experiencing.

The Statistical Institute of Jamaica is reporting an overall economic growth of 5.8 per cent for the country for the third quarter of last year – July to September – compared to the corresponding period in 2020.

In a release last Friday, the agency noted that there had been growth in all eight subsectors in the services industry, led by a 114 per cent increase in hotel and restaurants. This triple-digit increase has been reflected throughout the year, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett has disclosed.

His enthusiasm is buoyed by a year that started out with an industry that was decimated in 2020 but showed tremendous resiliency by the first quarter of 2021, registering a staggering 330 per cent growth.

Admitting that the economy could not be reporting such positive numbers had it not been for the tourism team and the industry stakeholders, he credits their consistent quality performance with driving the recovery behind the growth. The sector is Jamaica’s second largest earner of foreign exchange.

Jamaica was en route to welcoming more than five million visitors, earning a historic US$5 billion by the end of 2020, but COVID-19 struck, with lockdowns ushering in an era of unparalleled uncertainty and disruption.

Bartlett is forecasting that the progress will continue, notwithstanding the difficulties that the new Omicron variant of the virus causing COVID-19 has brought. The most transmissible among a long list of variants, in the last week alone, thousands of flights were cancelled throughout the United States, disrupting travel and tourism to various destinations, owing to Omicron.

Jamaica has had its share of cancellations, though minor, which, Bartlett accepts, is expected.

“The truth is that we have had disruptions throughout the almost two years of recovery. We’ve seen waves, and more waves are likely to happen, but the response that the industry has made has been one of resilience. And that resilience has enabled a confidence in the marketplace, which augurs well for destination Jamaica,” he stated.

Months shy of two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism minister said that he wants to focus less on the virus and more on its management so that the confidence the country has received in the marketplace will be retained.

The long-awaited pension programme for tourism workers starts in earnest next week and will be given a full rollout on January 12, Bartlett disclosed. A housing programme for the tourism workers also continues unabated, he added, listing a series of projects on which his ministry was now focusing.

“We have the programme in Grange Pen, St James. That’s a literal remake of a community for the benefit of the many workers who live in that area in the tourism sector,” he added, noting the possibility of industry workers accessing some of the 1,500 houses under construction in the Estuary in St James.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com