Jamaica will start charging travelers a mandatory fee for insurance coverage.
In order to visit the Caribbean island, visitors must pay $40 as part of the island's Jamaica Cares program to cover emergency medical services.
It will cover travelers against illness, including COVID-19, as well as natural disasters during their time in Jamaica. The cost of case management, transport logistics, field rescue, evacuation, and repatriation for medical emergencies up to $50,000 while on the island and $100,000 while traveling are covered under the program.
The program is in partnership with the Global Tourism Resilience Crisis Management Centre and two travel health insurance firms.
“Jamaica Cares delivers an unmet need in the travel industry by providing primary medical coverage and medical evacuation services,” Hon. Edmund Bartlett, Co-chairman, Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre, said in a statement. “The traveler knows they’re protected, and they know other travelers are, too. That’s what’s needed to give confidence to travelers when they are ready to travel.”
Jamaica reopened to tourists on June 15, with requirements such as temperature checks, results of a negative COVID-19 test, and a Travel Authorization application. When the Jamaica Cares program rolls out, it will be included on the Travel Authorization form.
Tourism has long been a mainstay of the Jamaican economy, but like many Caribbean destinations, it has taken a hit since COVID-19 halted travel worldwide.
Jamaica Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett said last month he has “cautious optimism” for a potential “major upturn” in visitor arrivals this upcoming peak winter season.
Prior to the industry standstill in March due to COVID-19, the tourism ministry projected the sector to generate US$4 billion, with 4.5 million visitors. At the end of February 2020, Jamaica had reported a 5.5 percent increase in visitor arrivals compared to the same period in 2019, or about 1.25 million visitors. However, like all destinations, the country has since experienced a downturn in arrivals.
“Thankfully, we are already seeing positive signs that buoyancy is slowly returning to the sector and we are cautiously optimistic that we will see a 40% increase in arrivals over the winter season when compared to the preceding periods of massive downturn,” Bartlett previously stated during the during the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) 59th Annual General Meeting and Virtual Market update.
“If we maintain the current levels of interest, we are potentially looking at over one million visitors by year end, which would be a fairly impressive achievement, all things being considered,” he said.
If the current levels of demand hold, he said, the projection is for more than 1 million visitors by the end of the year.
That “would be a fairly impressive achievement, all things being considered,” he said. “This would take into account the first quarter of the year when all arrivals were somewhere in the region of 800,000 people.”
A pre-flight testing program, currently in development with American Airlines, may also help boost the number of stayover arrivals. Similar to the programs in place in Hawaii, passengers who participate would be able to bypass any quarantine requirements.