England lockdown ‘devastating’ to peak season in Caribbean, says Jamaica tourism board

The Jamaica tourism board has branded the England lockdown as “devastating” for travel to the Caribbean and called on UK agents to continue to promote the country to customers.

Edmund Bartlett, minister of tourism for Jamaica, also claimed there had been no known cases of Covid-19 transmission within the island’s ‘resilient corridor’, an area between Negril and Port Antonio that takes in many popular tourist sites, since borders reopened on June 15.

Bartlett said: “The impact of the [England] lockdown on us has been devastating. It’s not just Jamaica – all of us in the Caribbean rely very heavily on British visitors.

“Jamaica’s position perhaps may be a little less painful than the rest of the region because we rely more heavily on the North American market. But the decision to close the UK for the month has seen cancellations of a number of flights. Some flights are not going to resume until the middle of December and that’s painful.”

Asked what agents can do in the meantime, Bartlett added: “What you can do is to continue to show Jamaica to be a pristine destination, a go-to place that must form part of your immediate priority once the UK has changed its stance in relation to its management activities for Covid.”

Visitors to the island must provide proof of a negative test within the 10 days prior to their arrival, but this has now been expanded to cover both antigen and PCR tests – provided they meet WHO standards – and will no longer need to be uploaded in advance.

Addressing Jamaica trade show Japex, attended by nearly 2,000 travel agents and 250 tour operators from key source markets, Bartlett said 211,000 visitors had arrived since borders reopened, bringing in $231.9 million between June and September. Hotel occupancy rates were “slowly inching up” with winter arrivals expected to show a 40% increase in arrivals compared with the summer period, which was severely affected by the downturn.

Bartlett said: “Tourism is a key driver of the Jamaica economy. For this reason, we must view this unprecedented crisis brought on by the pandemic as a transformational opportunity. The new normal will be however we choose to define it.

“To date, there are no known cases of infection along our ‘resilient corridor’ and we are really proud of that.”

The tourist board has also announced a new Jamaica Cares initiative due to take effect in December, covering the costs of emergency medical care, quarantine and repatriation for visitors.

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