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Jamaica not panicking, says Bartlett

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

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MINISTER of Tourism Edmund Bartlett says that Jamaica's tourism industry is resilient enough to overcome the global recession being predicted for 2020.

“Jamaica is not going to panic over this. What we are going to do is to go into full gear now to deal with those elements of resilience that we have, and add to it so as to ensure that when it comes it will have limited impact on us,” he told the Jamaica Observer during a meeting with key ministry officials at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston last weekend.

Bartlett was responding to major news reports across the globe last week, in which several notable economists predicted another global financial crash and the inevitable fallout that would follow in 2020.

The minister noted that over the past 50 years, the industry has continued to grow exponentially, despite at least three major global economic shocks — the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2003; the September 11 attacks in the United States (also referred to as 9/11); and, and the 2008/2009 global economic meltdown.

“Those were the only periods in the last 50 years when tourism's growth was affected. But the good news is that tourism bounced back faster than any other industry, and grew exponentially in the periods afterwards. The growth since the 2008/9 meltdown has been twice the projected growth rate,” he added.

The minister said that the key point to be recalled is that Jamaica was one of only two countries which grew tourism during the 2008/9 meltdown, with an average growth of 3.5 per cent over the period, which was significant.

“In fact, in 2010, we actually grew by five per cent, and that speaks to the resilience of the Jamaican tourism industry,” he argued.

Since that time, the ministry has strengthened the industry's resilience by further diversifying the markets and building out more products that are in line with the needs of the visitors.

“We have built a better customer value proposition, so that Jamaica's price and value is higher and better than other destinations,” he also pointed out.

In addition, he said that with repeat visits at 42 per cent and added airlift resilience with increased connectivity out of the United States and other parts of the world, Jamaica is in a better position than all other destinations in the Caribbean, except the Dominican Republic, to overcome an economic meltdown.

He said that outside of the United States, the industry is already committed to over 200 gateways and all the “legacy” carriers from the US which fly into Jamaica.

“We are close by, we are connected and it makes it easier for a visitor who is challenged by economic recession to come to Jamaica than to go to Europe or China or South America. So we benefit from that, and our marketing is first-class, as is whatever we do in terms of our international penetration,” he explained.

He noted that in the first half of this year, the country registered more than two million arrivals and earned close to US $1.5 billion over the period.

“That's huge, and the growth has continued. July was the largest July we have ever had in our history, and August is trending in a similar fashion and likely will be larger than last year,” he said.

However, he admitted 1,400 rooms — between the Riu in Ocho Rios and Sea Grapes in Montego Bay — have been closed for refurbishing up to September, which would be reflected in the figures for this month and therefore give the impression that arrivals were trending down.

He said when those rooms are returned to service in September there should be a big increase in arrivals, which would compensate for the slowed growth in August.

— Balford Henry


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