Wed | Jul 8, 2020

Tourism reopening a matter of economic life or death – Bartlett

Published:Friday | June 5, 2020 | 12:28 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer
Bartlett
Bartlett

WESTERN BUREAU:

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett says the loss of direct tourism revenue to the Government owing to COVID-19 for April 2020 to March 2021 has been estimated at 38.4 billion, a severe blow to the island’s economy.

According to Bartlett, who was speaking at a digital press briefing yesterday morning, the estimated overall loss to the economy from visitor expenditure from stopover arrivals so far, since the tourism lockdown, is $107.6 billion. Against this background, Bartlett indicated that the reopening of the country to tourists was of critical importance to secure the island’s livelihood.

“You can see, therefore, 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,” the minister said.

“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,” he added.

Bartlett said that he was mindful of the public sentiment that Jamaica was moving too fast to reopen to tourists as this poses an imminent health risk to Jamaican nationals. However, he insisted that the reopening would be carried out “safely and in a way that protects front-line tourism workers and the rest of Jamaican citizens”.

“The tourism industry is Jamaica’s bread and butter. It is responsible for 9.5 per cent of GDP (gross domestic product); contributes 50 per cent of the foreign-exchange earnings of the economy; and generates 354,000 direct, indirect, and induced jobs,” he argued.

Declaring that 80 per cent of tourism entities are small businesses, with linkages to other sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, and the creative economy, Bartlett said that this was the key reason he was “anxious to revive tourism”.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com