Jamaica News: With tourism having contributed approximately $62.2 billion in revenue to the Government coffers in 2017, stakeholders say the industry is now indisputably Jamaica’s best bet in the quest to attain economic prosperity.
Portfolio Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, who heads the many persons articulating this view, points to revenue of $33.2 billion in visitor expenditure and $29 billion in direct taxes from the accommodations sector as proof that the industry continues to “demonstrate the highest level of profitability and dependability”.
“As you would know, 2017 marked another exceptional year for tourism, with arrivals breaking all records and the total economic impact of the sector surpassing most other segments of the economy,” he tells JIS News.
The Minister says consequent on the significant increase in visitor arrivals last year, the revenue generated to the Government totalled $62.2 billion. This, he points out, accounted for 12.1 per cent of total recurrent revenue.
Mr. Bartlett, who departed Jamaica over a week ago to participate in the first ‘Resilience through Tourism’ Summit in Amman, Jordan, contends that there is even more reason to be optimistic for 2018 and beyond.
“We are just about halfway into calendar year 2018 and the growth trend continues unabated. The figures for January to May tell me that (the sector’s) performance has hit yet another record, with stopover arrivals for the first five months surpassing one million by about 30,000 visitors, representing a 5.5 per cent increase over the same period last year,” he informed.
Additionally, the Minister says cruise arrivals recorded a 5.5 per cent increase for the same period, to be sailing at 933,892, thereby bringing total visitor arrivals figure at this time of year to a near record-breaking two million, while adding that from June 1 to 14, “we saw an increase of 8.3 per cent in arrivals of over 90,000 visitors”.
Mr. Bartlett points out that foreign exchange earnings for the period increased by nine per cent to reach US$1.3 billion, up from US$1.2 billion.
“We are ahead of running targets in our 5x5x5 growth agenda of having five million visitors and generating US$5 billion by 2021 as we continue to position the tourism sector as the catalyst for job creation and economic expansion, and to meet our goal of over 125,000 direct jobs and 15,000 new hotel rooms,” he states.
Mr. Bartlett says never in the history of Jamaica’s tourism has there ever been such keen interest in investing in the industry as is currently being experienced.
He points out that leading global hotel brands are now clamouring to have a strong visible presence in Jamaica, citing Royalton, Riu, Hyatt Ziva and Zilara, Palace Resorts, Grupo Excellence, and also the recent partnership between Jewel Hotels and Playa Hotels and Resorts, among these.
“New investments are being generated in our tourism product. Last year, over 1,200 rooms were added to the hotel stock, representing hundreds of millions of US dollars in foreign direct investment (FDI),” Mr. Bartlett remarks.
These, he outlines, include 150 rooms at the Azul Beach Resort in Negril; 600 at the Hideaway at Royalton and Royalton Negril Resort; 150 at AMR’s Breathless Montego Bay; 12 at the Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay; 322 at the Jewel Grande Montego Bay Resort and Spa, “and let us not forget Sandals’ innovative over-the-ocean luxurious bungalows in Montego Bay and Whitehouse”.
The Minister reiterates that just over two weeks ago, Grupo Excellence Luxury Hotels and Resorts opened their latest resort, Oyster Bay in Trelawny, representing an investment of US$110 million and adding 315 rooms to the tourism landscape.
“I am happy to see the development of tourism in Trelawny. What is now Royalton White Sands was the beginning of the development of what was then known as New Falmouth Resorts,” Mr. Bartlett adds
He further states that: “Grupo Excellence joins Royalton Resorts, owners of Royalton White Sands and Blue Waters, and Melia Hotels International, which operates the Melia Braco, as the three main internationally recognised brands now operating in Trelawny.”
Mr. Bartlett points out that the five-year growth plan which he outlined two years ago is being achieved aggressively, adding that the country can expect to exceed all targets.
“Already, there are concrete plans for thousands more rooms to come on stream over the next three years. Ground will be broken soon for the Karisma Hotels and
Resorts expansive hotel development project in St. Ann. The Sugar Cane Project, at an estimated cost of over US$900 million, is expected to result in the development of a maximum of 10 hotels over 10 years, with a total of 5,000 rooms, and provide at least 8,000 direct jobs and 10,000 indirect jobs,” he outlines.
Mr. Bartlett says added to that will be Hardrock Hotel in Montego Bay, which is set to come on stream shortly, while Playa Hotels and Resorts is to build 760 additional rooms, expanding the Jewel Hotels chain in Ocho Rios, Runaway Bay and Montego Bay.
Source: JIS News