Tourism sector continues to perform well, says minister
TOURISM Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill says the sector continues to perform well, having recorded a two per cent increase in stopover arrivals for the 2013 winter tourist season and further projected growth for the summer season.
McNeill, who was responding to questions on his sectoral debate presentation at a post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House in St Andrew, yesterday, said there are some positive industry trends which contribute to this success. This, he said, are the increase in occupancy rate and average daily rates for the rooms as well as a more sustained tourism season.
"In other words, where we used to have wild swings between winters and summers we are balancing off," the minister said.
For 2013, McNeill said occupancy rates across all categories of accommodation went up 9.1 per cent. He explained that among the reasons for higher occupancy rates is the increase in visitors from the European markets whose length of stay is now longer. He also attributed the higher occupancy rate to the increase in Jamaicans opting to vacation at home and enjoy the reduced rates under the Experience Jamaica programme.
Additionally, the tourism minister said the sector is now benefiting from higher room rates.
"We had a talk with our largest tour operator that brings persons to Jamaica and they are saying the average daily rate of rooms has gone up between 13 and 15 per cent, which is really good news for us," he said.
McNeill further noted that historically, hotels would open for the winter season in December through to May but cease operation by June. However, over time hotels have been opening all year round but with rotation of staff in the summers.
"But now we are coming to the point where we are building on the summers because last year we had tremendous growth of over three per cent and we are seeing where we are getting an average of 178,000 visitors per month in the winter and 160,000 for the summer," McNeill said.
Jamaica, he said, will also be concentrating on the summer months as it rolls out an advertising programme to benefit from this opportunity to even off the seasonality and allow for a more sustainable industry.
A good positive for the sector, McNeill said, is that there has been a nine per cent growth out of the United Kingdom (UK) market.
Meanwhile, the tourism minister reported that Jamaica has secured two million airlift seats for stopover visitors, out of its traditional tourist markets of the United States, Canada, and the UK/Europe, for the upcoming 2014 summer tourist season.
He explained that 1.4 million seats have been secured out of the US, an increase of 11 per cent; 260,000 out of Canada, a 21.6 per cent increase; and 163,000 out of the UK/Europe, representing a 10 per cent hike.
The US, Canada, and UK/Europe continue to be Jamaica's major source markets for stopover arrivals with the North American market accounting for 80 per cent of arrivals to Jamaica.