Bartlett says Jamaica on verge of recording 900,000 stopover visitors

Observer writer

Saturday, March 23, 2019

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ROSE HALL, St James — Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett says Jamaica is on the verge of recording a whopping 900,000 stopover visitors for this winter season, which ends next month.

Addressing the 'Tourism Linkages Speed Networking' event held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in Rose Hall, St James, on Wednesday, Bartlett said the “unbelievable” figure does not include cruise visitors to the island.

“At the present ADRs [Average Daily Rate] for this winter, is heading up to give you nearly 900,000 stopover visitors in four months. This is unbelievable. We are over 600,000 already and we are only 10 weeks in the year,” stated an upbeat Bartlett.

“When you add cruise to that, you are well over the one million, of course,” he continued.

“At present, going for the year so far, Jamaica is in line to come away making five million visitors in one year,” Bartlett stressed.

The minister said that the tourism earnings for this year will be close to $4 billion.

Bartlett further stated that “the building out of inclusive tourism” has taken a new perspective, as the industry has grown from a fledgling activity into a mega industry, which now drives nine per cent of Jamaica's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and contributes in revenue terms, 20 per cent of GDP.

“Two years ago, we were at about 7.9 per cent — roughly eight per cent of GDP. [In] 2016, we became 8.4 per cent of GDP and [in] 2017 — I don't have 2018 numbers as yet, they are being calculated and hopefully I will get it in time for budget — was nine per cent. Now, that growth is significant. And considering a point six per cent growth in one year with a GDP overall growth of 1.7 per cent, you recognise that tourism represents seven per cent growth, which would be 3.4 per cent times the rate of growth of the country's GDP,” the minister said.

In fact, Bartlett said tourism earnings have grown from US$369 million in 2017 to US$431 million in 2018. He said, too, that the sector now directly employs 120,000 people or 10 per cent of the labour force.

However, the minister noted that growth in itself is not enough, arguing that growth must be shared, which redounds to the benefit of all Jamaicans.

He added that as the tourism sector continues to expand, so too must the opportunities for Small and Medium Tourism Enterprises (SMTEs), which plays a critical role in destination competitiveness.

Meanwhile, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA) Metry Seaga stressed that his association will not give up on efforts to have Government procurement policies changed, in an effort to ensure that it spends more on the purchase of Jamaican products.

“ …Our local companies are more than equipped to provide the nation's needs and it is up to us to continue to prove it beyond today, by continuing to procure Jamaican products and services for businesses and personal use, as well as being torchbearers of buying Jamaican,” said Seaga, during his remarks at the event on Wednesday.

“I promise you, I am not going to rest until we change the procurement policies that will ensure that when the government is spending taxpayers' monies, that they do so on Jamaican-made products,” he said.

Data obtained from the Bank of Jamaica indicates that imports in Jamaica had increased to US$1.4 billion in the third quarter of 2018 from US$1.2 billion in the second quarter of 2018.

Seaga gave a breakdown of some of the imports made in 2018.

“Soap, detergent, perfumes, cosmetics, shampoos, and body lotions were imported at a value of US$29 million in the same year (2018), and an additional US$67 million more was spent importing sauces and condiments, pastries, biscuits, banana chips, plantain chips, confectionery juices, and soda. This is simply unacceptable,” he stressed.

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