Sat | Nov 28, 2020

Despite COVID’s clutches, Bartlett predicts 40% winter arrivals bump

Published:Friday | October 30, 2020 | 12:16 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer
Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett (third left) participates in a groundbreaking exercise for the creation of the new Linkages Centre of Excellence at The Shoppes in Rose Hall, St James. Also pictured are (from left) Joy Roberts, executive director of Jamaic
Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett (third left) participates in a groundbreaking exercise for the creation of the new Linkages Centre of Excellence at The Shoppes in Rose Hall, St James. Also pictured are (from left) Joy Roberts, executive director of Jamaica Vacations Limited; Dr Carey Wallace, executive director of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF); Anup Chandiram, CEO of Chandiram Limited; Godfrey Dyer, chairman of the TEF; Ian Dear, chairman of the Tourism Product Development Company Limited; and Odette Dyer, regional director of the Jamaica Tourist Board.

WESTERN BUREAU:

Despite more European countries heading into lockdown and several American states witnessing record surges in COVID-19 cases, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett is projecting that Jamaica will see a 40 per cent increase in arrivals this winter tourist season.

“With the reopening of global economies, air travel is gradually being restored, and we are cautiously optimistic that we will see a 40 per cent increase in arrivals over the winter season when compared to the preceding period before the massive downturn,” Bartlett said yesterday at a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Linkages Centre of Excellence in Rose Hall, St James.

Quizzed by The Gleaner on the soundness of the prediction, the minister said that while the industry is in a wait-and-see mode, the confirmed bookings are reason enough to be optimistic.

“The point is that we’re basing it on bookings and the reservations that are on the books,” Bartlett explained. “If down the road it changes, then it’s a different game, but as for now, based on the seats that I announced we have, and the bookings that are committed, that is what the expectation is. You can’t do it any better than that.”

He said that since the reopening of the country’s borders to tourists on June 15, there have been more than 200,000 stopover arrivals, with the industry raking in earnings of US$250 million (J$36.4 trillion) between June and September.

“Airlift commitments continue to increase, and this is a good indicator that there is a demand for travellers waiting to travel or, indeed, making bookings to travel,” Bartlett said, adding that Jamaicans at home and in the disapora have played a key role in rebuilding the national tourism product.

Bartlett said that roughly 30 per cent of tourism workers have resumed working since the pandemic forced a shutdown of the industry. Up to September, approximately 250,000 tourism sector workers remain jobless.

In April, it was predicted that Jamaica could reap up to US$1.5 billion this year in tourism revenue, far less than the US$4.4 billion that had been previously projected.

MITIGATED LOSS

“We continue to be open. We have mitigated that loss somewhat,” the tourism minister told The Gleaner yesterday. “Because we continue to be open, and the numbers kept moving up, we mitigated that loss somewhat.”

He added: “The good news is that we’re doing the right thing to make sure that people come and feel good about coming and the protection we’re giving through the various protocols that we’ve established and the compliance that we have demonstrated.”

The new Linkages Centre of Excellence, which is scheduled to open on December 15, will provide authentic Jamaican experiences with elements such as local products, health and wellness offerings, local entertainment, and the use of the latest technology to drive traffic from nearby hotels.

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