KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaica will host the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) 66th Regional Commission of the Americas (CAM) that gets underway here on Thursday.
Tourims Minister Edmund Bartlett said that the event will be attended by UNWTO Secretary General, Zurab Pololikashvili and Minister of Tourism for Saudi Arabia, Ahmed Al Khateeb, It will be Pololikashvili’s first visit to the English-speaking Caribbean.
Barbados Tourism and International Transport Minister Lisa Cummins will also attend the meeting here that will be chaired by Bartlett. The tourism officials will also participate in the Ministerial Dialogue on the reactivation of the tourism sector for inclusive growth.
Bartlett said that investment will be high on the agenda when local officials meet with the Saudi Minister, who is heading an 11-member delegation to the talks, including an investor who will hold talks with Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Aubyn Hill, on a number of matters including renewable energy.
Bartlett said that Al Khateeb’s visit will be the first by a Saudi Arabian Minister of Tourism and that he oversees the Red Sea project, said to be the largest tourism venture to be undertaken anywhere in the world.
Bartlett revealed that the Red Sea project involves building out a number of islands to create a whole new US$40-billion tourism experience that will rival the much talked about Dubai development and is expected to transform Saudi Arabia’s oil-based economy into one driven by tourism.
Bartlett said this is of significance to Jamaica as it underscores the central value of tourism as a transformational tool in economic development.
“We will have a series of discussions relating to fostering collaboration between tourism in Jamaica and tourism in Saudi Arabia,” Bartlett said.
Meanwhile, the Tourism Minister has disclosed that since its reopening in June 2020, the tourism sector has been driving the economic recovery of Jamaica’s economy, through a steady increase in arrivals and tourism earnings.
“Preliminary figures indicate that since the reopening of the tourism sector on June 15, 2020, Jamaica has recorded a total of 816,632 stopover visitors and generated earnings of approximately US$1.31 billion over the one-year period.”
“The earnings from the sector included US$1.2 billion in visitor expenditure; US$28 million in departure taxes; US$19.5 million in passenger fees and charges; US$16.3 million in airline passenger levy; US$8.5 million in hotel room taxes and US$8.1 million in airport improvement fees,” he added.
Bartlett said that this is further proof that the tourism sector is on a steady path to recovery and that “for the current calendar year, the Tourism Ministry is reforecasting to deliver 1.61 million visitors against an earlier estimate of 1.15 million, an improvement of 460,000 more visitors.
“Tourism recovery is on the horizon. Our tourism sector is rising like a phoenix from the ashes. This more positive outlook for 2021 will also improve the destination’s estimate of earnings from US$1.6 billion to US$1.93 billion, an improvement of US$330 million,” said Bartlett, noting that the improvement is due in part, to the development of robust health and safety protocols for the sector as well as the establishment of the Tourism COVID-19 Resilient Corridors, which have seen a very low infection rate of 0.6 per cent.
He said that the measures enabled Jamaica to welcome some 342,948 tourists during the first five months of this year with earnings estimated for the period being US$514.9 million.
“May 2021 showed a remarkable increase in visitor arrivals and overall stopover arrivals, increasing steadily from mid-month consistently to the end of the month. Load factors recorded for May 2021 averaged 73.5%, this is against the forecasted 50 per cent average load factor for 2021, 9.3 per cent less than the 83.1 per cent load factor achieved in May 2019,” he added.