Jamaica’s Minister for Tourism, Ed Bartlett, is predicting a 6% growth in tourism arrivals to the island this year, almost twice that recorded last year.
The Tourism Minister attributed this to the time and resources spent putting the infrastructure in place to grow the travel and tourism sector, including deliberate strategies to increase air capacity, to the island.
Cruise arrivals, which registered a decline in 2009, are projected to increase by 5% this year.
According to Mr. Bartlett, this projected 5% growth will be due to the redeployment of vessels from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean and the expansion of port capacity in Jamaica.
Mr. Bartlett made the announcement while speaking at the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s Caribbean Marketplace 2010 in Puerto Rico.
The travel and tourism sector is crucial to the island’s economy, contributing 5.6 percent to its GDP, and employing over 10 percent of the population, including 80,000 direct jobs and over 270,000 indirect jobs.
Bartlett has confronted the challenge full-on, mobilising the tourism sector in an inspiring campaign to ensure that Jamaica would triumph in adversity, and build its position in the world tourism market. He had a strong team behind him: Jamaica Tourist Board chairman John Lynch, Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association president Wayne Cummings and Jamaica Association of Villas and Apartments head Vana Taylor.
In a climate where virtually every nation worldwide experienced a slump in tourism revenue and numbers, Jamaica’s performance has been outstanding.
The island registered US$1.533 billion in tourism revenue for the period January to October this year compared to the US$1.539 billion earned for the whole of 2008. The figures are even more impressive given that hotels were forced to offer a 30 to 65 percent discounted rate.
Jamaica welcomed 1.767 million visitors last year and there is great expectation that this number will be exceeded this year. Whilst early reports indicated the 2009/10 Winter Tourism Season, which started two weeks ago will prove particularly strong.
It has registered a 4 percent increase in visitor arrivals that was recorded up to early December 2009.
The International Monetary Fund confirmed Jamaica as the number one Caribbean tourism destination based on visitor arrival growth in 2009, up 3.4 percent, ahead of 3.l percent for Cuba.
Jamaica’s tourism supremacy was also rewarded at the 2009 World Travel Awards, the Oscar’s of the travel industry, where it emerged with no less than 16 awards, and the recognition of over 180,000 travel professionals that participated in the voting process.