Sun | Mar 29, 2020

Tourism ministry on virus watch

Published:Monday | February 3, 2020 | 12:26 AM

A senior tourism ministry official says it is too early to determine the extent of any impending fallout as a result of the Government’s travel ban implemented last week in response to the World Health Organization’s designation of the novel coronavirus as a global health emergency.

“There has been no dip in visitor arrivals. We leave [nothing] to chance, however, and have been very proficient in coordinating and working closely with the Ministry of Health and all our international partners,” said Delano Seiveright, a senior strategist in the ministry.

Seiveright said that the aggressive action taken by authorities in the country’s main markets – the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom – including the temporary withdrawal and/or reduction in flight services with China, has “undoubtedly mitigated the risk of the coronavirus spreading wildly and, therefore, from a knock-on perspective, reduced the chances of Jamaica having problems in that arena”.

The 2018-2019 winter tourist season emerged as Jamaica’s most successful based on earnings and arrival, with more than 800,000 stopover visitors, while generating more than $1 billion in earnings.

The bulk of Jamaica’s visitors, including winter tourists, come from the United States (US) followed by Canada and the United Kingdom (UK).

Seiveright said that while there are a handful of cases of the coronavirus in these countries, it is not at crisis levels and is being adequately contained.

In addition, he said portfolio minister Edmund Bartlett has been vigilant in making sure meetings are held regularly to thrash out issues that may arise.

“The Ministry of Tourism and its agencies have taken a very proactive approach to the crisis. A meeting ordered by Minister Bartlett and chaired by the permanent secretary went through all the issues at hand just a few days ago,” he said.

“Our hotel and tour operators have been impressed with Jamaica’s very proactive approach and cautionary measures, so much so that other Caribbean nations have consulted with us on the way in which we are handling the situation.”

There are have been close to 15,000 confirmed cases and just over 300 fatalities globally.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com