As a powerhouse destination, Jamaica is well on its way to recovery, welcoming its one millionth visitor last month since reopening its borders to tourists in June 2020. Though the global pandemic has been challenging, says Hon. Edmund Bartlett, Minister of Tourism, Jamaica, the country is resilient and remains steadfast in its commitment to providing travellers with world-class experiences. In this week’s Take 5, we sit down with the Minister to discuss Jamaica’s recovery, reopening and what to expect for the winter season.
- Jamaica reopened to tourists in June 2020. How would you say the reopening has been so far?
From the outset of the pandemic, Jamaica has been a global leader in managing and mitigating the spread of COVID-19. We are nimble, resilient, and are committed to delivering the highest levels of health and safety for visitors, tourism workers and local communities.
In conjunction with the Ministry of Health, we implemented strict WTTC-approved health and safety measures across the island to provide visitors with a fun and stress-free vacation experience, including mandatory mask wearing, social distancing, and expanded COVID-19 testing capacity. To encourage safe tourism practices, Jamaica has also established two innovative Resilient Corridors where visitors do not have to quarantine and can move around freely and enjoy COVID-compliant attractions and tours. There is almost no transmission of COVID-19 within these designated tourism bubbles, with a less than 0.1% positivity rate.
The resilience of a destination is an important reference point for consumers looking to make a decision about their travel plans. Consumers have demonstrated increasing confidence in Jamaica during our recovery period, and we look forward to even more Canadian visitors in the coming months as airlift increases and travel restrictions continue to ease.
- The Delta variant has been called a game-changer, with many industries and destinations forced to pivot and rethink their reopening strategies. Is Jamaica doing anything differently to limit Delta’s spread?
In August 2021, Jamaica established a dedicated Tourism Vaccination Task Force that aims to administer COVID-19 vaccinations to all of the country’s 17,000 tourism workers. This island-wide vaccination program strengthens our protective Resilient Corridors and is a tremendous aid in our recovery efforts for the sector and the country. Currently, approximately 40% of Jamaica’s Tourism Workers are vaccinated.
Jamaica has also made an aggressive effort to expand our testing capacity, with both antigen and PCR tests readily available on the island. Our COVID-19 testing capacity is adequate to facilitate all visitors, with many hotels and resorts are providing testing on-site for their guests.
- Can you confirm what your current entry requirements are for Canadian visitors?
All travellers entering Jamaica must complete a Travel Authorization form prior to boarding their flight and individuals ages 12 and up are also required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 molecular (PCR, NAA, RNA) or Antigen test performed by an accredited lab for which the sample was collected within three days of the travel date.
Tourists who are staying at an approved accommodation facility within one of the island’s Resilient Corridors are not required to quarantine upon arrival in Jamaica. Quarantine requirements for business travellers and visitors staying outside of the Resilient Corridors are determined based on the traveller category and vaccination status.
The most up-to-date information on Jamaica’s entry requirements can be found on the Jamaica Cares website.
- Are all hotels/resorts open in Jamaica? And is there a standardized set of health and safety protocols across the board?
Yes, Jamaica’s licensed hotel and accommodation partners remain open for business and ready to welcome Canadians. All employees and patrons of these facilities are required to observe a set of Health and Safety Protocols established by the Ministry of Tourism. All tourism operators and suppliers permitted to accept guests have undergone rigorous inspections and must be fully compliant with these standardized protocols, which have guidelines on staff training, protective equipment, sanitization, physical distancing, and more.
- What kind of winter season are you anticipating, particularly from the Canadian market? And what new offerings can Canadian expect?
Jamaica is building our capacity to attract more visitors, expanding our on-island tourism offerings, and working with Canadian airlines and tour operators to increase airlift and launch new routes into the destination. As a country, we are excited about the investments being made to create new and exciting tourism experiences for our visitors while ensuring we build a sustainable industry that is focused on the development of our people and our infrastructure. With that in mind, both Arts & Culture and Gastronomy are two main areas of growth for Jamaica in the coming year.
By fostering the creative spirit of our people and artisans, we are helping to share Jamaica’s distinct cultural identify with the world. The country is developing five diversely creative artisan villages across the island, with the first due to open in Falmouth in late 2021. Each village will feature hundreds of craftspeople, food vendors, and entertainers, allowing Canadian visitors to foster connections with Jamaican artisans and bring home authentic keepsakes from the island.
Food is a main motivator for travel and Jamaica offers culinary experiences like no other. We continue to see development in our agricultural sector with restaurateurs opening farm-to-table eateries and gastronomic attractions offering unforgettable dining options and interactive cooking classes. Devon House, a historic landmark in Kingston, has been designated as a centre for gastronomic experiences where visitors can relax, shop, and enjoy Jamaican and international cuisines. The Blue Mountain Culinary is a 19.5-kilometre self-guided route that ascends high into the foothills of the misty Blue Mountains. Visitors can explore the trail to experience fine dining, relaxed cafes, coffee tasting sessions, and locally inspired dishes while admiring views of the lush terrain.