Jamaica Cares travel insurance to come on stream in the first quarter of 2021.
Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett has disclosed that Jamaica is anticipating as much as a 40 per cent increase in visitor arrivals for the winter tourist season, which officially starts today.
In a statement to Parliament this afternoon (December 15) Bartlett argued that this 40 per cent increase over last year is very much achievable given the preceding periods of massive downturn caused by the global pandemic. Declaring that this increase “augurs well for the 70 per cent of our furloughed tourism workers, who are still off the job,” Bartlett expressed confidence that the sector will rebound, as it has done many times before.
“I will remind you that tourism has been the most resilient sector of the national economy over the past 30 years, having expanded by 36 per cent against total cumulative economic growth of 10 per cent,” the tourism minister told members of parliament attending today’s meeting of the House of Representatives.
Robust tourist arrivals since sector reopened
He pointed to preliminary figures from the Jamaica Tourist Board indicating that, between the June 15 reopening of the tourism sector and December 14, some 317,701 passengers arrived in the island, while the sector has earned more than US$450 million. The JTB is currently maintaining strong engagement with tour operators and airline companies to drive bookings for the winter season.
Bartlett disclosed that Jamaica Cares, which is a ground-breaking travel protection and emergency services programme, should come on stream in the first quarter of 2021. Jamaica Cares provides visitors with cost of medical care, evacuations, field rescue, case management and patient advocacy in all circumstances up to and including natural disasters.
As it relates to COVID-19, the protection plan also covers testing for symptomatic travellers, quarantine/isolation in a medical facility or sanctioned quarantine facilities and evacuation, if necessary. When implemented, Jamaica Cares is expected to position Jamaica as one of the most COVID-resilient countries in the world.
Final arrangements being made for Jamaica Cares
The tourism minister told the House of Representatives that Jamaica is currently in discussions with the airlines to finalise arrangements for the travel insurance programme.
He contended that this new framework would considerably lessen the burden on the local health system and ensure that Jamaicans are not deprived of well-needed health resources.
In a show of confidence in Destination Jamaica, Bartlett said Jamaica’s airline partners have committed 1.1 million seats for the winter season, as the destination seeks to regain its strong footing in the marketplace. Of that number, some 450,000 are out of the United States, Jamaica’s largest source market.
While these seat numbers are 40 per cent less than the last winter season, they are significantly up from where they were in the fall.
Flights returning to Jamaica
Jamaica, Bartlett said, is seeing positive activity out of other important markets too, such as England, where on the weekend British Airways resumed fights between London Gatwick and Sangster International Airport after an 11-year hiatus.
The twice-weekly BA flight will operate for the winter season until April 17, 2021 with a capacity of 31 business class, 52 premium economy and 250 economy seats. Copa Airlines resumed weekly service to Jamaica on December 7 with a flight from Tocumen Airport in Panama City, Panama to Sangster International Airport.
This was the airline’s first flight to the island since the closure of the country’s borders earlier this year as part of measures to stem the spread of COVID-19. The resumption is expected to strengthen Jamaica’s efforts to get into this market, as COPA Airlines services more than 80 gateways in Latin America.
Resilient Corridors working; no COVID cases reported
Bartlett also spoke about Jamaica’s tourism protocols, which received the global endorsement of the World Travel & Tourism Council, complement to its highly successful Resilient Corridors to the north and south of the island.
The Resilient Corridors, designed to keep workers, communities and visitors safe by only opening an area that can be effectively monitored and managed.
“To date, there has been no known case of transmission of COVID-19 along the Resilient Corridors, which is proof that our highly regarded health and safety protocols are working and testament to the high level of compliance by tourism stakeholders,“ Bartlett boasted.
He added that this is why, internationally, Jamaica is regarded as a leading example of how to create a safe and seamless travel experience for the country’s visitors.
Visitors to the island are now able to enjoy more of its unique offerings, as many of the COVID-19-compliant attractions are now open to tourists. In addition, tourists can now stay in multiple accommodation facilities within the Resilient Corridors, allowing visitors the opportunity to experience more than one resort region on one trip.