by Brian Major
Last updated: 3:09 PM ET, Tue November 10, 2020
Jamaica's government has revived tourism activity following the COVID-19 outbreak through a science-based approach that features strict protocols and an innovative "resilient corridors" system allowing visitors access to 80 percent of Jamaica's tourism attractions, said officials Tuesday.
The approach appears to be paying dividends. "We are already seeing positive signs that buoyancy is returning to the [tourism] sector," said Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica's tourism minister.
Speaking at this week's Jamaica Product Exchange Virtual (JAPEX) conference, Bartlett said preliminary figures from the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) indicate the county has hosted more than 211,000 visitors since reopening on June 15.
"Hotel occupancy rates are slowly inching up," he added. "We will see a 40 percent increase in arrivals over the winter season when compared with the previous period of our massive downturn."
Government and tourism officials attending JAPEX outlined steps Jamaica is taking to maintain and expand critical visitor arrivals while minimizing COVID-19 infection across the island.
Jamaica visitors are required to complete an online Travel Authorization form two to five days prior to their planned arrival. Approved travelers receive a certificate they must present during their departing flight's check-in. U.S. travelers must also upload results of a negative COVID-19 test prior to departure.
The procedures are complemented by a virtually touchless process at Jamaica's main airports, said officials. "The travel authorization and health screening protocol process is aimed at conducting the immigration and customs process in a more efficient and safe manner," said Peter Mullings, JTV's head of technology and administration.
Jamaican officials have additionally trained tourism industry personnel, including resort, attractions and transportation operators, in COVID-19 protocols. Government agencies are also conducting a monitoring program that includes spot checks to ensure entities certified to operate following COVID-19 training remain in compliance.
"Just under 900 entities" have returned to operation since Jamaica's June re-opening, said Deanne Keating Campbell, director of product quality and training at Jamaica's Tourism Product Development Company Limited (TPDCo).
Campbell said there have thus far been "No major breaches identified from the monitoring of [tourism] activities," and she noted Jamaica's operational protocols were formed in partnership with the World Travel & Tourism Council.
Jamaica's "Resilient Corridors" comprise two extended coastal regions that incorporate roughly 80 percent of its tourism areas and only one percent of its resident population, said JTB officials.
The first Resilient Corridor segment extends along Jamaica's northern coast from Negril in Westmoreland to Port Antonio in Portland. The second segment stretches west along the same coast from Milk River in Clarendon back to Negril in Westmoreland.
Visitors have been limited to these areas, allowing the country to provide a comprehensive vacation experience during which travelers may stay at more than one Resilient Corridor hotel or resort while accessing several areas of the country.
"We had to ensure we had seamless, safe and secure way for [visitors] to travel, an alternative program that provided an end-to-end, much more safe product," said John Byles, director of Chukka Caribbean Adventures and chairman of the Resilient Corridors program.
"We decided on protocols that ensured our team focused on the [guest] touch points, to be sure their experience was never compromised," Byles said.
"There is no question the corridor has worked," he added. "It really is a justification of the protocols. We don't rely on any single protocol; it is really about the effectiveness of the combined protocols. Our goal is seamless and safe travel."
"To date there are no known cases of infection along our Resilient Corridors," said Bartlett.
Later this month, Jamaica will launch "Jamaica Cares," an "end-to-end" travel insurance plan providing visitors with emergency medical and crisis response services via a public-private partnership with services firm Global Rescue, said Bartlett.
Non-Jamaican passport holders will be required to purchase the policies, which are initially priced at $40 per person (Bartlett said Tuesday rates are likely to be slightly reduced).
The plans cover "case management, transport logistics, field rescue, evacuation and repatriation" services for medical emergencies including COVID-19, along with crises including natural disasters. They offer international health coverage up to $100,000 for visitors traveling to and from Jamaica and on-island health coverage up to $50,000.
The program combines Global Rescue's emergency services with domestic and international travel medical insurance, said Jamaica officials. The compulsory fee will be included as part of the Travel Authorization application, approval of which will enroll travelers in the program.
"Post-COVID visitors will not be the same as pre-COVID ones," Bartlett said. "They will need to be re-assured their safety and wellness is being taken care of as they travel."
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