In a major move for the Caribbean tourism sector at large, the island of Jamaica is reopening its borders for travelers beginning June 15.
Jamaica Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett announced the decision in a letter from the Ministry of Tourism to stakeholders.
Jamaica reopened its borders for the repatriation of nationals on June 1.
The reopening would make Jamaica the largest Caribbean destination to reopen its borders so far.
Saint Lucia is planning to reopen for tourism June 4, as is Antigua and Barbuda, while the United States Virgin Islands reopened for tourism on June 1.
“I congratulate Jamaica on the reopening of our borders on June 15 2020 to all international travelers,” said Adam Stewart, deputy chairman of Sandals Resorts International, the Jamaica-based resort company.
Sandals Resorts had announced plans to reopen the vast majority of its resorts in the Caribbean on June 4 (excepting its properties in The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos).
Stewart said Jamaica’s newly-developed COVID-19-focused health and safety protocols were over 100 pages.
“From transportation, restaurants, villa operators, tour providers and of course all sizes of hotels and resorts, it’s a world-class document that will guide safety for all in the hospitality sector,” Stewart said.
Bartlett said the protocols were “perhaps,the most rigorous set of protocols that could be available anywhere in the world to protect, not just the workers… but the whole country.”
While not all major air carriers have announced their plans, Southwest Airlines just said it would be relaunching some routes to Montego Bay, Jamaica’s tourism hub, beginning July 1.
And Delta Air Lines has officially revealed plans to relaunch daily flights from Atlanta to Montego Bay this month.
The move means resorts can now begin to reopen, like the iconic Half Moon.
“We are continuing our liaison with the Government of Jamaica to ensure we are painstakingly diligent in the phased opening of our property,” said Guy Steuart, Chairman of Half Moon, told Caribbean Journal.
A spokesperson for Half Moon also confirmed to Caribbean Journal that the property’s website and reservations team were now “open for bookings to international travelers, beyond the June 15 date as announced by the Jamaican government.”
Just before the pandemic, Half Moon had debuted its highly-anticipated new Eclipse at Half Moon resort.
So what does the announcement mean for Jamaica’s all-important tourism sector more broadly?
Bartlett recently suggested Jamaica could receive another two million visitors through the end of the year.
More importantly, it’s a boost for the hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans who are employed in the sector.
That would be “somewhere around 50 percent of last year, if we can have a summer start, between June and August,” he said.
Jamaican officials, led by Bartlett, have publicly stated a desire to be a force in the global tourism recovery post-COVID, even branding the new wave of travelers “Generation C.”
The region has to prepare for the “ushering in of a new era,” Bartlett said.