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The Jamaica Tourist Board announced its Jamaica Cares campaign in a press conference detailing its key learnings from the pandemic and destination-wide response.

The virtual event took place on Mar. 11, 2021, and featured a presentation by Donovan White, director of tourism at the Jamaica Tourist Board, outlining the island’s experience of navigating international border closures, successfully managing reopenings, and planning for a recovery.

“It’s been nearly a year since the industry was brought to a standstill, and Jamaica, like many of its Caribbean neighbors, has weathered significant economic fallout as a result of COVID-19,” said White. “Jamaica’s tourism sector was doing extremely well up to late March last year when the global travel industry came to a grinding halt. We’re just a few days shy of the first anniversary of that fatal day in March 2020 when international borders were slammed shut.”

White detailed how Jamaica’s Ministry of Tourism, as well as its Ministry of Health and Wellness, worked together with international tourism and health organizations to identify health and safety protocols that would keep its travelers and local communities safe upon reopening. The Ministry of Tourism also set out to provide free continuing education programs for hospitality workers, enabling them to enhance their skills at no cost to themselves at a time when they were out of work. While the Jamaica Tourist Board itself focused its marketing strategy on developing virtual programming that would help the island stay connected with potential visitors.

“What was critical in preparing for reopening was a focus on showcasing Jamaica’s global leadership and resilience in navigating a crisis,” said White. “The establishment of resilient corridors was a critical measure in which the destination sought to manage the pandemic. This was an important balancing act as health and safety guidelines were required, while citizens and visitors were urged to adopt a responsible approach to minimize the spread of the virus.”

For the first two weeks after reopening, Jamaica welcomed just over 7,000 visitors. During the summer months it saw a spike in arrivals in July and August, where it welcomed over 80,000 visitors over the two month period. The destination experienced a decline in September, which is typical annually, followed by an increase in arrivals over the next two months culminating in December, where it received its highest number of arrivals per month for 2020 with just over 90,000 visitors.

Despite the ongoing challenges, January also had reassuring numbers with some 43,800 total visitors; and based on preliminary estimates, arrivals for February remain encouraging with just over 50,000 visitors.

Jamaica Cares encompasses our entire destination-wide response to the pandemic, and our commitment to resilience in the face of challenges,” said White. “It is our nature in Jamaica to care deeply about others. Jamaica Cares is about Jamaicans and our commitment to keeping our local communities working and healthy. Jamaica Cares is also about international travelers, and delivering a seamless and coordinated, COVID-secure travel experience.”

Jamaica significantly expanded its testing capacity in January to bring the island into readiness, with testing requirements in place for international travelers from the U.S. and Canada. More than 40 hotels and resorts are providing COVID-19 testing on property for their guests; while the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Health and Wellness have established mobile testing facilities within the resilient corridors.

Testing and testing resources have also been added at the Sangster International Airport and the Norman Manley International Airport. Most recently, the island adjusted its entry processes to require proof of a negative COVID-19 test, not only for international travelers from other countries, but for all travelers flying into Jamaica, regardless of where they are flying from, or if they’re a visitor or a Jamaican resident.

“While industry experts have remained cautious in predicting when traveling and the travel industry will work fully, there is cause for optimism,” said White. “With the vaccine now a reality, we believe it will only be a matter of time before our $9 trillion global tourism industry will begin its rebound.”

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