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KINGSTON, Jamaica, Monday May 14, 2018: Tourism continues to experience unprecedented growth as the industry plays a lead role in the government’s growth agenda. With three years into a five-year expansion plan set by Tourism Minister, Hon Edmund Bartlett, projections are being exceeded.
Following a record-breaking season in 2017, Minister Bartlett reported to Parliament in his 2018 sectoral presentation recently, that tourism numbers for the first quarter of this year had hit new highs with January to March arrivals of 1,298,674, representing an increase of 6.6 percent over the corresponding period last year.
The 625,002 stopovers and 673, 672 cruise passengers meant the island had over 80,000 more visitors for the period. Gross estimated foreign exchange earnings for the quarter stood at US$825.3million, an increase of 8.5 percent.
“The rapidly expanding tourism sector has maintained its position as one of the main contributors to job creation, investments and foreign revenues in the economy over the last several decades,” said Minister Bartlett in his report, with data indicating that the total economic impact of the sector surpassed most other segments of the economy.
Underscoring the fact that tourism was vital to the fulfilment of the mandate of Vision 2030 – making Jamaica the place to live, work, raise families and do business – Mr. Bartlett outlined that the industry was a major contributor to tax revenues and employment creation.
Pursuing new investments, Mr. Bartlett said over 1,200 rooms were added to the country’s hotel stock in 2017 totalling millions of US dollars. For 2018/2019, an additional 1000 rooms are to be added.
Cruise tourism has also been growing apace, putting Jamaica on a trajectory to becoming the leading cruise destination in the Caribbean. Cruise passenger visits were 11 percent higher than in 2016 and gross earnings from that sub sector was US$179 million, up 19 percent from US$150 million in 2016.
Mr. Bartlett said strong growth was anticipated in 2018 owing to the wide range of cruise development initiatives that have been pursued with partners and stakeholders over the past year.
The Port Authority of Jamaica is overseeing the upgrade of ports to enhance capacity and receive large cruise ships. US$22 million is being spent on Reynolds Pier in Ocho Rios. It is being twinned with rehabilitation of the Ocho Rios Fishing Village at a cost of US$4.5 million to transform it into a modern complex for food, entertainment and vending.
The Falmouth port will be upgraded at a cost of US$3 million to allow two Oasis-class vessels to dock simultaneously. Minister Bartlett said there was a commitment to rehabilitate of the whole town of Falmouth to enhance the readiness of its infrastructure and allow residents to maximize the benefits of an expanded cruise tourism sector. Consequently, US$12.85 million had been earmarked a number of projects and upgrades, among them development of an Artisan Village at Hampden Wharf, renovation of Falmouth market, landscaping of Market Street and improvement of the Falmouth Hospital.
Plans are also being crafted for development of Port Royal to accommodate cruise tourism.