Jamaica Tourism Achievements Nothing Short of Amazing

Bartlett
image courtesy of Jamaica Ministry of Tourism
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Written by Linda Hohnholz

The Hon. Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica Minister of Tourism, presented a parliamentary update on the state of Jamaica’s tourism industry today, December 12, 2023.

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In his opening remarks, Minister Bartlett addressed the Madam Speaker by saying: “I stand in this Honorable House this afternoon to highlight the remarkable success of Jamaica’s tourism industry, which stands as a beacon of economic growth and prosperity. The record-breaking achievements in tourism have not only put Jamaica on the global map but have become a catalyst for overall national economic advancement.”

Jamaica’s tourism sector experienced unprecedented growth in 2023, attracting visitors from around the world who come for the pristine beaches, top-rated attractions, vibrant culture, delectable cuisine, and warm hospitality. This influx of tourists has translated into a significant economic boost, with revenues reaching new heights.

Estimates indicate that the island should record a total of 4,122,100 visitors for the period January to December 2023. This would signal an increase of 23.7% over the total number of visitors recorded in 2022. Of this number, 2,875,549 are expected to be stopover visitors, which would represent a 16% increase over the number of stopover arrivals recorded in 2022. Additionally, it is expected the year will end with a total of 1,246,551 cruise passengers, which would represent a 46.1% increase over the tally for 2022.

This continues the spectacular growth pattern of tourism, both in terms of visitor arrivals as well as for earnings. Jamaica has gone 10 consecutive quarters since the COVID-19 pandemic showing significant growth, and based on arrival figures to date, all indications are that the 11th quarter will show substantial growth as well.

In terms of tourism earnings, this influx of visitors is expected to generate a whopping US$4.265 billion for 2023, representing a projected increase of 17.8% over the revenue secured in 2022, and a 17.2% increase in revenue over the pre-pandemic year of 2019.

If the nation continues on this impressive growth trajectory, the country will be on track to surpass projections of 4 million visitors and foreign exchange earnings of US$4.1 billion by year end.

A further estimated breakdown of these earnings to specifically include direct revenues to the coffers of the government are:

–              Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) fees which go straight to the Consolidated Fund – US$57.5 million or JA$8.9 billion

–              Departure Tax – US$100.6 million or JA$15.6 billion

–              Airport Improvement Fee – US$28.8 million or JA$4.47 billion

–              Airline Passenger Levy – US$57.5 million or JA$8.9 billion

–              Passenger Fees and Charges – US$69 million or JA$10.7 billion

–              GART – US$22.6 million or JA$3.5 billion

–              TOTAL DIRECT REVENUES (all above) – US$336 million or JA$52 billion

This includes only the direct revenues; not included is the indirect which is multiple times larger and includes monies spent at restaurants, shops, supermarkets, craft vendors, attractions, ground transportation operators, tour guides, Airbnbs, the many thousands employed directly and indirectly and beyond that, linkages through farmers, manufacturers, distributors, other suppliers, construction  activities, and so on.

STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS

Strategic partnerships have enhanced Jamaica’s tourism success as resources were combined, market reach was expanded, and synergies were created. Collaborations with airlines, travel agencies, and hotel chains have helped to increase brand awareness, attract more visitors, and diversify visitor experiences.

International market blitzes throughout 2023 have been integral to the increase in demand for Brand Jamaica and the supporting increase in airlift. These included:

Argentina, Chile, and Peru as sights were set on regaining a share of the lucrative South American visitor market. The mission is to bolster visitor arrivals coming from this source market to 250,000 visitors over the next 5 years.

Eastern Europe to promote Destination Jamaica amid the staging of the 19th World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, in August. There, the Tourism Minister met with over 50 tour operators, travel agents, and media representatives to discuss the new way in which Jamaica will engage Central and Eastern European countries, including Poland, Georgia, Serbia, and Bulgaria, among others.

Canada, where top ultra-luxury agencies, led by Ensemble Travel and Kensington Tours, shared in the signature launch of Jamaica’s newest luxury market promotion “Come Back to Luxurious Jamaica” in Toronto.

The United Kingdom, where Jamaica is now the number one destination for British visitors to the Caribbean. Out of the World Travel Market London, the country has now set a new target of welcoming 250,000 visitors out of the UK and Ireland by 2025.

Airlift commitments also continue to increase, and the 2023/24 winter season is looking positive. The Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) is maintaining strong engagement with tour operators and airline companies to drive bookings for the winter. There is new airlift from Canada Jetlines, Flair, Frontier Airlines, Norse Atlantic Airways, LATAM Airlines, and Southwest Airlines.

In a strong show of confidence in Destination Jamaica, a record 1.05 million airline seats have been secured from nearly 6,000 flights coming into the country out of the United States during the upcoming winter season. This surge in airlift represents an increase of 13% over winter 2022/2023, where a whopping 923,000 airline seats were recorded.

To date, 10 airlines have some 5,914 flights booked out of key US gateways to the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay and Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston between January and April 2024, adding to the flurry expected over the 2023 Christmas holiday period.

Investor confidence remains strong and the country is on target for the projected 20,000 new rooms in the next 10 to 15 years, including 2,000 new rooms in 2024. Slated to debut next year are the first 1,000 rooms of the 2,000-room Princess Grand Jamaica, the 753-room Riu Palace Aquarelle, and the 450-room Unico Hotel in Montego Bay.

At the World Travel Market London in November, it was announced coming out of a meeting that renowned international hotel group, Lopesan, known for its impressive portfolio of over 17,000 hotel rooms across Europe, Asia, and the Caribbean, is seeking to develop a 1,000-room luxury resort on the island. The development is expected to generate over 2,500 direct and indirect jobs, and positively impact scores of farmers, manufacturers, small businesses, and other stakeholders.

Beyond these active developments, Jamaica also has strong investments coming soon, emanating from Jamaican business interests, Thailand, the Middle East, Mexico, and of course European interests.

BUILDING LINKAGES & HUMAN CAPITAL

Beyond its direct impact, the thriving tourism industry has become a driving force for other sectors of the economy. Local businesses, from restaurants and attractions to farmers and manufacturers, have flourished as they cater to the diverse needs of tourists. This, in turn, has stimulated growth in agriculture, transportation, and various service industries.

The symbiotic relationship between tourism and these sectors has created a robust economic ecosystem. Moreover, the positive effects ripple beyond immediate financial gains. Investments in infrastructure, such as upgraded transportation networks and improved facilities, not only enhance the visitor experience but also contribute to the overall development of the nation. The increased revenue generated by tourism allows for further investments in education, healthcare, and social welfare, fostering a better quality of life for all Jamaican citizens.

This is underscored by the success of the Agri-Linkages Exchange (ALEX) platform, which has generated some $1 billion in sales by small farmers. These are small farmers with 3-acre and 5-acre lots as well as backyard farmers selling to local hotels and restaurants. The ALEX platform, a collaborative initiative between the TEF and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), has revolutionized the interaction between hoteliers and farmers.

This is also evidenced by the tourism loan disbursements through the National Export-Import (EXIM) Bank which have surpassed $1 billion for 2023. The Small and Medium Tourism Enterprises (SMTE) loan facility, managed by TEF and facilitated through the EXIM Bank, plays a pivotal role in enhancing the resilience and capacity of SMTEs in the tourism sector. This initiative has empowered business operators with access to financing of up to $25 million at an attractive interest rate of 4.5% for 5 years.

Through the human capital development arm, the Jamaica Centre of Tourism Innovation (JCTI), the nation continues to invest in the continuous training and certification of thousands of industry workers across the island and provide them with new opportunities. Since 2017, the JCTI has successfully provided professional certification to over 15,000 individuals, bolstering the nation’s commitment to human capital development in the tourism sector. 

The groundbreaking Tourism Workers Pension Scheme (TWPS), which came into effect in January 2022, continues to provide a well-needed safety net for hardworking industry employees, who are now able to retire in comfort and dignity in the twilight of their years.

The pension scheme hosted its first annual general meeting in hybrid form at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in July of this year. $1 billion was seeded by the Government of Jamaica to allow for immediate benefits to accrue to qualified pensioners. Member contribution to the fund now stands at well over $1 billion with over 9,000 workers signed up and many thousands more to go.

TOURISM RESILIENCE LEADER

Jamaica continues to play a critical role in driving global tourism resilience through its strategic initiatives and unwavering commitment to sustainable tourism practices. Through the Global Tourism Resilience & Crisis Management Centre (GTRCMC), measures to mitigate the impact of external shocks, such as natural disasters and global crises, on the world’s tourism and travel sector have been actively addressed.

The Hon. Minister Bartlett recently returned from Dubai where he attended COP 28, the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2023, with global leaders, government representatives, and other leading stakeholders, where they discussed how to limit and prepare for climate change. The Minister gave the keynote address at the Latin American and Caribbean Development Bank’s (CAF) Summit entitled “We are the Caribbean: We are the Solution.”

While there, the Minister presented the inaugural Global Tourism Resilience Awards as part of the 30th annual World Travel Awards, which are regarded as the Oscars of the tourism and travel industry.

The 5 awardees were the nations of Qatar; the Maldives; the Philippines; and UAE corporate powerhouses DP World, an Emirati multinational logistics company specializing in cargo logistics, port terminal operations, maritime services, and free trade zone; and Dnata, a leading global air and travel services provider offering ground handling, cargo, travel, catering, and retail services in over 30 countries across 6 continents.

The Global Tourism Resilience Awards fall under the stewardship of the GTRCMC – an international think-tank headquartered in Jamaica, with satellites in Africa, Canada, and the Middle East.

Jamaica walked away with 2 major awards at the prestigious World Travel Awards: “World’s Best Family Destination” and “World’s Best Cruise Destination.”

The dialogue on tourism resilience and investment will continue in earnest in Jamaica next year during the historic anniversary of the United Nations’ declaration of February 17 as Global Tourism Resilience Day, which Jamaica championed, when the country will host the 2nd staging of the Global Tourism Resilience Conference in Montego Bay from February 16-17 as part of a worldwide observation of the day.

Just prior to that, on February 14, 2024, the United Nations General Assembly is working to hold a Ministerial Debate on Tourism Resilience further cementing the eminence of the effort and the global reach of the message.

The Resilience conference will bring together global thought leaders,  academics, ministers of government, investment experts, and other stakeholders involved in the tourism industry from the Middle East, Africa, and the Caribbean, headed by the Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Zurab Pololikashvili, and Chairman of the UNWTO Executive Council, His Excellency Ahmed Al Khateeb, Minister of Tourism for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The conference is being jointly organized by the Ministry of Tourism, the GTRCMC, Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA), International Tourism Investment Conference, Jacobs Media, and the World Travel Awards.

CONTINUING FORWARD MOMENTUM

Jamaica is entering the 2023/2024 winter tourist season on a very strong footing and the Tourism Minister is certain it will be a record season for arrivals and earnings. This is excellent news as Jamaica’s tourism industry is the driving force propelling the nation towards unprecedented economic heights. 

Tourism development continues to support deeper cross-sectoral linkages, particularly with the agricultural and manufacturing sectors, stimulate small-scale entrepreneurial activities, and promote the greater inclusion of local communities along the tourism value chain.

The country is ensuring that the interconnected network of opportunities that tourism creates will uplift not only the tourism sector but the entire nation, as it continues on its journey as a people to boost productivity and foster peace, progress, and prosperity.

About the author

Avatar of Linda Hohnholz

Linda Hohnholz

Editor in chief for eTurboNews based in the eTN HQ.

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