Feb 8, 2023
Jamaica’s Tourism Industry Starts Year Off Strong, But Workers Are Still Scarce
(Bloomberg) -- Jamaica’s tourism industry is expected to pull in $4.2 billion for the fiscal year ending March 31 — some $500 million better than 2019 — the island’s Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett said.
Tourism arrivals in January were up 15% from the same month in 2019 — the country’s high-water mark.
“The industry has really returned with a bang,” Bartlett said in a phone interview Monday. Tourism the is fastest rebounding sector post-pandemic, “but it still hasn’t fully recovered.”
While visitors are again flocking to white sand beaches in the Caribbean, hotels and restaurants are struggling to lure back workers. In Jamaica, the labor pool is still about 15% shy of where it needs to be, Bartlett said.
Jamaica will be hosting a global tourism resiliency conference Feb. 15-17 to explore how to make the industry more attractive for workers. Among the issues that will be discussed will be providing healthcare, pension benefits and affordable housing for tourism workers.
“The social conditions around hotels and tourism areas leaves much to be desired,” Bartlett said. Workers often “leave somewhere with running water and golden faucets in the bathroom and go home to an open air bathroom and what you call substandard facilities.”
In January 2022, Jamaica launched what the country hailed as the first comprehensive pension program for tourism workers. Since then, some 10,000 workers have signed up and the fund has over 1.7 billion Jamaica dollars ($11 million).
“People who give their life to tourism have to have a sense that, having done so, that they will be able to retire” comfortably, Bartlett said.
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