Jamaica is on track to surpass five per cent growth annually in tourism, amid projections for growth in the industry regionally to exceed no more than 3.5 per cent up to 2020.
Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, giving his sectoral budget presentation in Parliament in Kingston on Tuesday said the island was set to exceed the regional average based on current trends.
Tourism is the single largest earner of foreign exchange in 16 of the 28 countries in the Caribbean and also the sector receiving the most FDI, he said.
Jamaica, he noted ended 2016 with “phenomenal” outcomes.
From January to December 2016, the island recorded total tourist arrivals of 3.84 million up by roughly four per cent, with 2.2 million stopovers up 2.8 per cent. There were 1.66 million cruise passenger arrivals, an increase of 5.5 percent.
Estimated gross foreign exchange earnings for the period January to December 2016 amounted to US$2.55 billion up 6.2 per cent, with stopover arrival earnings of US$2.4 billion up 6.1 per cent and cruise passenger earnings of US$148.6 million up eight per cent.
The MOT head commented, “Jamaica enjoyed yet another phenomenal year in tourism. I can now confidently proclaim that the country remains firmly on track to achieving or even surpassing some of the benchmarks under our ‘5x5x5’ growth plan, specifically the five per cent annual growth target that we have earmarked over the next five years even amid projections for tourism growth in the region to exceed no more than 3.5 per cent up to 2020.”
The tourism sector in the Caribbean region attracts earnings in excess of US$27 billion, providing jobs for one out of every five employed persons and attracting just over 30 million visitors annually. It grew by average 4.2 per cent in 2016.
Bartlett, noting that growth in arrivals to four million for Jamaica is being targeted through a multi-dimensional approach, said , “we have also been in discussions with China with the aim of concretising another tripartite agreement between China, Jamaica and Cuba, which will allow us to tap into the Chinese market substantially,” he said.
Other initiatives include exploring sports and entertainment tourism, and increasing airlift and arrivals from Europe.
Tourism directly employs more than 106,000 Jamaicans, while generating indirect jobs for another 250,000 Jamaicans (or one in every four Jamaicans).
The direct contribution of tourism to GDP is estimated at 8.4 per cent while total contribution is estimated at a 27.2 per cent of GDP.
In order to improve these statistics, the MOT head said, increased focus must be placed on developing the capacity of small and medium-sized tourism enterprises (SMTEs) that play a pivotal role in increasing consumption levels.
Travel and Tourism generated one in 11 of the world’s jobs in 2016, translating to a total of 292 million jobs, as the sector grew by 3.3 per cent, outpacing the global economy for the sixth year in a row, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) Economic Impact Report 2017, conducted in conjunction with Oxford Economics.
The report notes that Travel and Tourism generated US$7.6 trillion worldwide, which represents 10.2 per cent of global GDP when the direct, indirect and induced impacts are taken into account.
Additionally, global visitor exports, which is money spent by foreign visitors, accounted for 6.6 per cent of total world exports, and almost 30 per cent of total services exported.