Jamaica Welcomes One Million Visitors Since Onset of COVID-19 Pandemic

Jamaica tourism
PHOTO: NICKIETA STERLING Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett (centre), presents Jamaica’s one-millionth visitor to the island, Darnel Williams (second left), and her children 12-month-old Keon and five-year-old Keona Francis, with a complimentary stay at Royalton Resorts following their arrival at the Sangster International Airport, Montego Bay, St. James, on Sunday (August 15). Sharing in the moment (from left) are: Chief Executive Officer of MBJ Limited, Shane Monroe; Regional Commercial Director, Blue Diamonds Resorts, Kerry Ann Quallo-Caserly; and President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Clifton Reader.

Despite the third wave of COVID-19 currently ravaging the island, Jamaica’s tourism industry is seeing an increase in visitor arrivals.

On Sunday, August 15, Jamaica welcomed its one-millionth visitor since its borders were reopened to international travel in June 2020, after being closed for three months due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, and Director of Tourism, Donovan White, headed the officials and key industry stakeholders on hand at the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, St. James, to welcome Daynel Williams, who had the distinction of realising the milestone.

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Ms. Williams arrived on JetBlue flight 1179 from New York, USA, accompanied by her children, five-year-old Keona and 12-month-old Keon Francis, and parents Austin and Jennifer Williams.

The family, who are of Jamaican descent, will be vacationing in Oracabessa, St. Mary.

Jamaica, which is the only English-speaking Caribbean country to have welcomed over one million stopover visitors since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, has also generated just over US$1.5 billion in foreign exchange earnings from the industry since June 2020.

Speaking with journalists on Sunday, Mr. Bartlett said the milestone achievement during a pandemic was indicative of the level of visitor confidence in Jamaica as a tourism destination, as well as the country’s health and safety protocols to contain the spread of COVID-19.

He noted that Jamaica has demonstrated to the global tourism market that “we were managing this pandemic well”.

“The training that we did with our workers, the provision of personal protective equipment and also… the infrastructure needed in hotels and everywhere else, [certifying] our properties based on the [level of] compliance with COVID-19 protocols and establishing the [resilient] corridor, which was a huge game changer, really enhanced the confidence that the market had in us,” he noted

Mr. Bartlett pointed out that with the sector’s rebound, more than 50,000 tourism workers who were laid off as a result of the pandemic have been reinstated.

Additionally, he said the Sangster Airport, which saw a decline in its labour force from 7,000 workers to skeletal staff, has been able to recall 5,000 employees.

Mr. Bartlett emphasised that the tourism sector’s gradual recovery has contributed to Jamaica’s strong economic rebound during the first quarter of the 2021-22 fiscal year, as announced recently by Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke.

“So, when we examine what tourism has done, [it] gives me a sense of pride that, in this quarter under review, tourism arrivals and earnings increased [significantly]. So, we have no doubt as to the impact of tourism,” Mr. Bartlett said.