Tourism pivot

Tourism pivot

JHTA, JTB open to attracting visitors who will work from Jamaica

Senior staff reporter

Friday, September 11, 2020

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THE Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) and the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) yesterday agreed that the time may be right for the tourism sector to explore attracting visitors who will live and work in the country, a move necessitated by the global impact of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

JTB Director of Tourism Donovan White sees it as an option that could be tried relatively soon, and JHTA head Omar Robinson told the Jamaica Observer that while the idea is perhaps one better pushed by the JTB, the association was not repulsed by it.

“I think it is something we will be looking at relatively within the short term,” said White. “There are a lot of opportunities out there in the marketplace and we are always looking at opportunities in perpetuity to ensure that we align ourselves properly, and that when we make a move in regards to implementing new innovations they are well thought through and we can execute flawlessly.” According to the JHTA’s Robinson, the concept is worth exploring.

“We are not actively exploring it as yet; not actively or widespread,” he said. “Some may be doing long-term [stays], especially in our villa sector, [but] not as much as 12 months. But it is something that can be explored by the industry.”

The concept of marketing Jamaica as a destination for non-nationals interested in working remotely for extended periods is similar to the move adopted by other countries, some of them in the Caribbean.

In July Barbados officially launched its 12-month Welcome Stamp, a new visa that allows remote workers to live and work from that country for up to a year. It costs $2,000 for an individual visa, or $3,000 for a ‘family bundle’.

That same month the Government of Bermuda announced a new residency certificate policy that allows remote workers and students to spend a year on the island. Interested workers must be older than 18, have health insurance, and supply proof of employment or enrolment in an educational programme.

Additionally, Georgia, which sits on the borders of Asia and Europe, announced a new visa programme targeted at self-employed, remote workers interested in living in the country for six months or longer.

Yesterday the JTB’s White said the entity was open to exploring innovative ways to boost visitor arrivals and was certainly not averse to the concept of long-stay visitors working from here. The key, he said, was to make it possible within the local context.

“Clearly our situation is different from Barbados… in terms of the number of cases and active cases that there are in Barbados versus Jamaica, and so the dynamics of making it work is a little different,” he said.

Up to yesterday, Barbados had recorded seven deaths while Jamaica had 40.

“We are obviously looking to find the right solutions to present our own offerings to the marketplace in that respect. But we are certainly surveying a number of innovations to bring to the marketplace to continue to allow our tourism product to rebound in the shortest possible time, given that we are still in a pandemic,” White explained.

He further pointed out that while the concept of Jamaica as a remote work destination was attractive, management and planning would be key to successful implementation.

“We do have to ensure that if we are going to introduce different concepts of a remote-work, long-stay concept we have to have full buy-in from all of our stakeholders — including our health officials and all of our partners — and also understand that when persons are within the destination on a long-stay you have to allow for them to move about the destination. Those are some of the considerations we have to have a handle on completely, because at the end of the day our number one objective is to protect lives and livelihoods. So we are extremely careful in every step we take in this process, ensuring that you have a foolproof plan so that when you attempt to implement we are able to support it,” he said.

“If we are going to make a push like this in the marketplace we have to ensure that we have put in place all the necessary safeguards to protect not only the visitors but also Jamaicans, as they are literally going to be living in the country for an extended period,” the JTB director added.

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