Jamaica has earned an estimated US$1.7 billion since it re-opened its tourism sector in June last year, said Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett.
The sector, which had been closed as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, welcomed 1 285 368 visitors and Bartlett said that the figures, up to September 2021, comprise approximately 1 276 987 stopover visitors and 8 381 cruise passengers.
He said that the forecast for 2021 is for 1.57 million visitors and more than two billion US dollars in earnings.
Bartlett told Parliament that the cruise industry should be fully back on track by December with projections for approximately 300 000 cruise passengers by year end.
He said the return of cruise shipping signals the second critical phase of the reopening of the tourism industry and will aid greatly in bringing back much-needed jobs.
“Cruise is an integral part of our tourism product and an important driver in terms of visitor arrivals and expenditure. Thousands of Jamaicans depend on the cruise shipping industry,” he said.
August 16 saw the successful return of cruise operations, after a 16-month hiatus, with the arrival of the Carnival Sunrise at the Ocho Rios Cruise Shipping Port.
“With Carnival’s schedule of some 16 calls over the next three months, the return of MSC Meraviglia, as well as Royal Caribbean, Disney and other cruise lines preparing to resume sailing the Caribbean Sea, we should have cruise fully back on track by December with pretty much the full fleet,” Bartlett said.
He said that by the end of the year, the Montego Bay and Falmouth ports should also be reactivated, with hopes of having calls also at Port Royal and Port Antonio. He said that the return of homeporting is expected in November.
Bartlett told legislators that the return of cruise shipping is being managed with strict adherence to the coronavirus health and safety protocols, which are guided by global standards and best practices to ensure the safety and protection of citizens as well as visitors.
In addition, he said the vessels are managed in alignment with the Conditional Sailing Order for Simulated and Restricted Voyages promulgated by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Bartlett said that prior to the arrival of the cruise ships, the Ministry of Tourism, along with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, and the Port Authority of Jamaica, visited the Ocho Rios port to sensitise stakeholders, particularly about the importance of taking the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Our tourism industry continues to show its resilience as it rebounds from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic. The diligence, hard work and unity shown by our tourism stakeholders over the last 18 months is paying off as we rebuild a safe, seamless and secure destination and Brand Jamaica reclaims its competitive position in the global market,” he said. (CMC)