With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to negatively impact Jamaica’s tourism sector, Prime Minister Andrew Holness has cited a need to diversify the country’s economy.
Additionally, he said the Government has recognised the need for diversification, and has been taking the necessary steps to achieve this goal.
He made the disclosure during an interview with Tim Stenovec, the host of QuickTake on Bloomberg Television in the United States on Friday.
In the wide-ranging interview that focused on several topics, including tourism, Holness explained that Jamaica was dependent on tourism, which accounts for roughly a third of the nation’s foreign exchange earnings.
“Tourism is our main foreign exchange earner now. It would account for about 30 per cent of our foreign exchange earnings, so you can see that the economy has taken a hit,” he shared.
“… but we have long realised we have to diversify our economy. Our economy would not be classified as significantly diversified now, but we have taken steps.
“Our economy fell off in terms of growth by 10 per cent, but in all of that, our construction sector grew, so we are taking steps in terms of our fiscal management of our affairs, to ensure that we are able to last out this pandemic and not fall into systemic financial shocks.”
Despite the declines in tourism, Holness said the sector has been finding creative ways to survive as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
Among those creative ways he mentioned was the creation of COVID-19 resilient corridors.
The resilient corridors, which encompass the majority of the island’s main tourism regions, provide the opportunity for visitors to enjoy more of the country’s unique offerings, as many COVID-19-compliant attractions, located along the corridors, are authorised for visits by the health authorities.
There are three COVID-19 resilient corridors – the north coast from Negril to Port Antonio; the south coast from Milk River to Negril; and the Kingston Business District (New Kingston and its environs).
Holness told Bloomberg Television that “We (Jamaica) were able to create a space with the right protocols, the right set of management strategies, where tourists are able to come, and great environment and atmosphere, and it has been working.
“We are at about 30 per cent occupancy right now. Our earnings are down about 70 per cent, but our industry is strong. It is resilient, and we are finding creative ways of surviving.”
In admitting that the country has been dependent on travel and tourism, Holness said he wanted to see travel return safely.
“We are dependent on travel and tourism. We are connected into the world (and) into travel and logistics. So from our perspective, we want to see travel return, but of course safely for everyone,” he stated.
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