Tourism Minister, Hon Edmund Bartlett says Jamaica saw an 8.6% increase in tourism revenue in 2018. He told a news conference, held at the Ministry’s New Kingston office yesterday that, the preliminary figures from the Jamaica Tourist Board on the performance of the industry, has shown a new record for the industry, in terms of arrivals and spend.
“At the end of December 2018 Jamaica had 4.31 million visitors, which represents the second year in a row that the county has had over 4.3 million visitors in a single year. But, the earnings is the area of greatest performance for us in 2018 because we had an 8.6 % in earnings from 3 billion in 2017 to 3.3 billion in 2018,” said the Minister.
He went on to state that,” this means that Jamaica had 40 years of tourism earnings to make its first billion, which came about in 1995. The second billion was earned in 2010 and the third came in 2017. This year we are 300 million in pursuance of the next billion. This means that we are in line with the projections made to earn 5 billion dollars from tourism within the period that we’ve indicated.”
The Minister also highlighted that the increase in earnings has had a great impact on the local economy, primarily to the small and medium tourism enterprises.
“Tourism is growing at a phenomenal rate but because the retention of the dollar is hovering at 30% we can say that there is more than US $1 billion in circulation across Jamaica coming directly from tourism. The impact of this is seen in the growth of the small and medium enterprises, who are more involved in the industry than ever before. The dollar is being retained because more and more of our people are supplying against the demands of the industry,” he said.
The Minister also used the opportunity to provide an update on the security audit of all hotels and attractions being led by the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) as part of efforts to ramp up the island’s destination-assurance programme.
International Security Expert Dr. Peter Tarlow as well as Global Rescue – a leading global provider of medical evacuation, repatriation, and security-extraction services for individuals, enterprises, and governments – have joined the audit to collaborate with the Ministry’s destination assurance managers to construct a new architecture for tourism ethics and visitor safety.
“I have had the opportunity to meet with people in all aspects of tourism over the past two days. It seems to me that this is a country that is working hard to become not only a safe place but is struggling to become a world model that can be adapted to other parts of the world,” said Dr. Tarlow.
He also shared that, “what impresses me about Jamaica is the openness to look at problems, analyse those problems and then be willing – instead of putting them under the table – to say let’s bring them into the sunlight, examine them and solve them.”
The Tourism Working Group, which was recently established by Minister Bartlett to conduct a comprehensive review of issues in the sector, and is headed by PriceWaterhouseCoopers Senior Partner, Wilfred Baghaloo, will also be a part of the process.
The security audit, which is to be completed by the first half of 2019, will identify gaps and ensure that the destination remains safe, secure and seamless for visitors and locals alike.
Security arrangements are part of the licensing requirements for many sector operators and significant weakness or breaches will result in tough sanctions. So far, 16 properties have been audited.