[MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica] – Against the background of tourism being the backbone of the recovering Jamaican economy, Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett has made an impassioned plea for the protection of the industry.
As the tourism industry strengthens its resilience against the COVID-19 pandemic, Minister Bartlett said Jamaica had been recognized as one of the fastest recovering countries in the world and the fastest-growing tourism destination in the Caribbean.
Speaking today (Dec. 22) at a breakfast appreciation function for workers at Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport (SIA), Minister Bartlett noted that there were ominous signs of COVID-19 variants and made an impassioned appeal for everyone to safeguard the industry and the national economy by helping to manage the pandemic by getting vaccinated and following the safety protocols.
“I have travelled to more than ten of the largest and most important destinations for tourism as well as for trade and international financing in the last six months and in every instance the message is the same, vaccinate,” he said.
At the same time, the tourism industry was resisting “spouting gloom and doom about the industry with every strain of the virus that comes along because we have been through a few already and in each instance, the industry has bounced back and we have seen even stronger growth.”
Minister Bartlett underscored that tourism was the catalyst driving economic activities across all sectors. “Because tourism is such a huge driver of consumption, it energizes all the productive sectors across the country,” he noted while citing as an example the construction boom in real estate that is being driven the Airbnb tourism subsector.
With tourism doing its part in bringing in the visitors and creating the demand, Minister Bartlett urged the productive sector to do their part in meeting the supply side.
“It is not our job to make sure we are supplying those needs that the visitor has; manufacturers must manufacture what the industry wants, agriculture must provide the agricultural needs; it is not the industry’s responsibility to do that, our job is to bring the visitors here and we do that,” he affirmed.
The Tourism Minister said, “Our records show that the last five days after the start of the winter season have been absolutely phenomenal for us.” He agreed with Chief Executive Officer of MBJ Airports Ltd., Shane Munroe that Jamaica was now seeing pre-COVID-19 arrivals.
Mr. Munroe noted that for the 13th consecutive year Sangster International Airport, with over 8,000 workers and more than 80 percent of businesses there owned by Jamaicans, had been voted the number one airport in the Caribbean by the World Travel Awards – the leading authority that recognizes and rewards excellence in travel and tourism.
Mr. Munroe said by direct input, “this airport has pumped over US$200 million into the local Jamaican economy.”
As MBJ continues to make significant investments, the MBJ Airports CEO said a new project was coming on stream shortly to expand the departure retail area “with 50 percent more retail space, better seating, natural lighting and an overall improvement in the passenger experience.”
Joining Minister Bartlett and Mr. Munroe in celebrating the airport workers for their tremendous support were Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Mrs. Jennifer Griffith; Director of Tourism, Mr. Donovan White; and Jamaica Tourist Board Regional Director, Mrs. Odette Dyer.
Chief Operations Officer of MBJ Airports Ltd., Peter Hall headed the list of workers receiving special awards for their contribution to the success and smooth operation of visitors passing through the Montego Bay airport.