Jamaica will seek to reinvent itself as “cleaner and greener” destination in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to tourism minister Edmund Bartlett.
Only by doing so can the Caribbean destination insulate itself from future shocks to the global tourism industry, the minister explained.
“We need to now embrace new strategies, a new orientation, new focus, a new mission and new ethos that will ensure that our tourism sector is able to adjust to the new normal of constant, destabilising threats to ensure its adaptiveness, agility and ultimately survival in the post Covid-19 era.
“We have long talked about niche markets; however, we need to move fast to identify and target those niche markets that will give Jamaica a competitive edge in the post-Covid era,” he added.
“There is considerable opportunity for Jamaica to achieve competitiveness and resilience by establishing itself as a sustainable destination based on exploiting our natural advantage with respect to potential niche markets such as health, wellness, nature, culture and heritage as well as gastronomy.”
The remarks came during an online address to the Jamaica Money Market Brokers (JMMB).
Minister Bartlett argued that the Caribbean had been among the hardest hit regions of the world during the pandemic, due largely to its reliance tourism.
Caribbean tourism-dependent nations lost an estimated 12 per cent of their GDP last year, compared to 4.4 per cent global economic contraction over the same period.
The WTTC estimated that six million jobs in the travel and tourism industry and more than US$110 billion in contribution to GDP were lost in Latin America and the Caribbean alone in 2020.
From a national perspective, Bartlett said, the Jamaican economy has been haemorrhaging from the sharp decline in tourist arrivals experienced over the past 14 months.
Pre-crisis, tourism generated direct employment for some 175,000 Jamaicans and indirect employment for over 354,000.
It was also the single largest contributor to GDP, the main source of foreign revenues and one of the main sources of exports.
Despite losses, however, there were some signs of recovery.
“I am buoyed by the fact that the rebound of the tourism sector has started,” said the minister.
“The tourism labour force is now estimated at 70 per cent of its pre-crisis capacity.”
Jamaica welcomed over 135,000 visitors in May, and expects to receive over 155,000 in June.
“Thankfully, rapid vaccination within the United States and other source markets is providing a glimmer of hope that confidence in international travel will rebound shortly,” concluded minister Bartlett.