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  • March 30, 2021
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Edmund Bartlett

Jamaica’s Tourism Minister Sees Need to Support Reggae Month

Jamaica’s tourism industry is a key driver of the economy and the Ministry of Tourism will continue to give strong support to the annual Reggae Month celebrations, especially this year with the travel restrictions and viral nature of the global events.

Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, has been having understandable fears about the demands being made by developed nations on the testing of travelers who wish to visit the island. However, he insists that Jamaica has bolstered its COVID-19 testing infrastructure to meet the growing demand for tests, which is being driven by new travel requirements in major tourism source markets. He also promised that all visitors to Jamaica, will be able to access approved testing arrangements, enabling them to fulfill the requirements of their respective countries for re-entry. This followed a recent order by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), requiring evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result for airline passengers travelling into the United States.

Similar requirements were previously introduced by the governments of Canada and the UK, which require all persons flying to those countries to present negative test results to facilitate entry or to avoid self-quarantine. The improvements to the testing framework are being driven by the special task force he recently developed to spearhead efforts to boost Jamaica’s COVID-19 testing capacity.

Jamaica’s tourism industry is a key driver of the economy, and Bartlett has been urging stakeholders to view the unprecedented crisis brought on by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as a transformational opportunity to help get tourism back on track. He says that tourism sector must return to its pre-pandemic state, where there were 1.5 billion international tourist arrivals and the industry generated some 170,000 direct jobs. Giving an assurance of his confidence in the Jamaican culture, and especially the music, he said that to help the tourism recovery, it is necessary to continue the partnership with Olivia “Babsy” Grange’s multi-layered ministry, recognizing its potential in terms of the expansion of Jamaica’s cultural diversity, which will require a level of funding that the MCGES cannot afford. “It is my dream that as soon as the pandemic has been overcome, that there will be a meeting of the minds among our entrepreneurs, reggae artistes, financiers and cultural exponents, resulting in the emergence of a fresh and new wave of reggae production, and a calibre that can be sold, not just locally to the tourism industry, but find its way to more renowned world stages and earn more rave reviews,” Bartlett insisted.

Therefore, the Ministry of Tourism will continue to give strong support to the annual Reggae Month celebrations, especially this year with the travel restrictions and viral nature of the global events making for an unusual hospitality environment. Significantly, Bartlett believes that the pandemic has illustrated the need to better diversify the island’s tourism economy from its primary suppliers of visitors, the US, UK, and Canada. He said it is unfortunate that COVID 19 has led to a curtailment of events which usually attract large audiences and has dampened the activities of the performing artistes, but entertainment is still very much alive. However, he highlighted one important point, that the music has not remained stagnant, but has penetrated the heart and soul of people everywhere. “Right across the globe it has been infused into other cultures and genres, and this attests to the influence of our talented artistes and musicians and is something that should be embraced,” the minister noted.

He said that the Reggae Month events will be relayed by top platforms and social media pages through virtual programming and worldwide access will be provided. He urged the players and investors to approach the phenomenon as the big business it really is and to continue playing their roles in it, despite the pandemic threat. “Reggae Month aims to be a reggae festival with a significant contribution to economic growth, to increase tourists’ arrivals and foreign exchange earnings,” he pointed out.

Bartlett is viewed by some as the world’s leading tourism minister. He has represented Jamaica regionally and internationally, and currently chairs the Board of Affiliate Members of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

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