Jamaicans have been urged by at least two senior Cabinet ministers to brace for a near-complete shutdown of the cruise industry amid swirling concern over the novel coronavirus, which has surpassed 107,000 infections worldwide and killed 3,600 people.
The situation has been exacerbated by a travel warning issued yesterday by the United States Department of State imploring American citizens to reconsider cruises because of restrictions to ports of entry.
Jamaican health authorities have arm-wrestled with cruise lines over the rigidity of COVID-19 protocols dictating that travel history, and health and temperature logs be turned over to local officials before passengers and crew have been allowed to disembark.
It is understood that the crisis has caused Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett to call a meeting of travel industry stakeholders in Kingston for Tuesday.
Several ships have been pulled from calls in Jamaica, with Carnival Cruise Lines among the most vocal, threatening to divert all vessels from Jamaican ports.
Jamaica had more than 460 cruise ship calls in 2019, with more than 1.5 million passengers visiting the island.
Two government ministers with whom The Gleaner spoke yesterday have also raised alarm that the contagion from a downturn in cruise travel has already begun to sow seeds of doubt among airline tourists, who represent the lion’s share of the more than four million visitors to the island annually.