Jamaican Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett has said that Jamaica is one of a few countries in the world experiencing growth in tourism, despite the global economic crisis.
Mr. Barlett attributed the achievement to his ministry’s tourism strategy, when he addressed a community meeting held by the Jamaican High Commission in London, on Saturday.
“Tourism is the only industry (in Jamaica) that is not reeling from the effects of the economic downturn,” the minister declared.
He added that, because of tourism’s linkages with other sectors, its continued growth could stimulate and sustain jobs and social stability.
He told the audience that, while Jamaica has been affected by the changes in the global financial landscape, the country has prepared itself in order not to be consumed by it.
“My guiding principle has been to mitigate the effects and defeat it. Some thought that we were in denial or just did not understand, but we decided that travel and tourism was a way of life that would remain,” he explained.
According to Mr. Bartlett, the stimulus package announced by the prime minister which made concessionary loans available to the sector at all levels, last year, as well as the ministry’s major advertising campaign, had combined to ensure that Jamaica ended the year recording growth in visitor figures.
He said that the island started this year well, with January recording a 4.2 percent increase, and February showing a 2.9 percent increase, over last year’s figure. He also said that the first week in March has shown growth, recording a nine per cent increase over last year’s figures. The United Kingdom market has remained strong and recorded a one percent growth.
Mr. Bartlett commended UK-based Jamaicans for their continued support of the tourism sector, noting that there has been a nine per cent increase in the number of ‘non-resident’ Jamaicans visiting the island.
“We are a very resilient people. We are not going to give up and we will not take defeat. Your country is working hard to keep our heads above water. We are facing challenges, we can’t say there will not be job losses, but the government is working hard to ensure that these are minimal, (as) we have done what needs to be done to secure the sector,” he told the audience.