Jamaica’s tourism industry is forecast to have declined by a whopping 85% between March and June.
That’s according to a report from the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force, tabled in Parliament this week.
The dramatic decline in tourism was caused by the border closures and economic lockdowns to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Kalilah Reynolds has more.
The report says the decline in tourism, especially hotels and restaurants, is unquestionably the most significant impact on Jamaica’s growth.
The industry is forecast to contract by 85%.
To put it in context, the report notes that it took 22 years, between 1997 and 2019, for the economic output of hotels and restaurants to grow by that amount.
It says economic output that took a generation to build is projected to be erased in a single quarter.
Though official data is not yet available, the report cites numbers from the Ministry of Tourism showing that at least 50-thousand direct employees have been laid off in the hotel sector alone.
The situation is also gravely affecting the country’s foreign exchange inflows.
Jamaica is expected to lose out on US$2-billion in foreign exchange, as a result of lost tourism earnings.
And because the country’s economic decline is tourism-led, the report concludes that one of the quickest paths to recovery will be the recovery of tourism.
The report says restoring tourism to pre-COVID-19 levels of output will go a long way to achieving the Task Force’s objectives.
The report cites opportunities in the industry that Jamaica can take advantage of.
In land-based tourism, it says the opportunity exists to regain market share as larger, more mature markets have had more difficult experiences with COVID-19.
For example, the neighbouring Dominican Republic, one of Jamaica’s larger competitors in the region for tourists, has been much more gravely impacted by the disease than Jamaica.
With a population about three times the size of Jamaica’s, the Dominican Republic has registered 58 times more cases than Jamaica.
They’ve had more than 47-thousand cases and over 900 deaths.
Mexico, another large regional competitor, has also been battling very high numbers.
Meanwhile, in cruise tourism, the report says the opportunity exists to command more share of the cruise itinerary as consumers begin to opt for multiple stops in one country.
Just yesterday, the government reopened the island’s south coast to tourism, as part of a second resilient corridor from Milk River in Clarendon to Negril, Westmoreland.