An acknowledgement by Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, on Thursday, makes as clear as crystal the reason behind the Government’s conviction that now is the time to reopen the country’s borders to international travel.
At the same time, COVID-19 is estimated to cost the Government J$38.4 billion between April 2020 and March 2021, and the estimated overall loss to the economy from visitor expenditure from stopover arrivals is J$107.6 billion, according to Ministry of Tourism estimates, he said.
Since Jamaica and other Caribbean countries closed their international borders in mid-March due to the coronavirus outbreak, hotels, shops and restaurants have gone unnervingly quiet, and large swathes of beaches normally occupied by tourists in lounge chairs have become acres of desolation.
However, while most of the Caribbean won’t reopen until next month at the earliest, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda and St Lucia have decided that they could not wait any longer, with Antigua’s information minister, Melford Nicholas, explaining that despite the continued high rate of infections and deaths in the United States, St John’s simply had to take the “calculated risk” for the economy’s sake.
Over 90 per cent of the hotels in the region are still closed, with two-thirds of them expected to reopen partially by the end of July, Frank Comito, the chief executive officer of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association, told The Sunday Gleaner.