Jamaica has welcomed 1,117,137 stopover visitors since the start of the year, which has generated just over US$1.5 billion in earnings.
Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, addressing a press briefing at Gordon House in downtown Kingston on Tuesday (July 5), noted that arrivals have been “pacing very positively”, adding that the industry “continues [to show] very strong recovery” from the fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Provided an update on developments in the sector, during the briefing, Bartlett said the industry’s gradual recovery has remained on track “because we have continued to expand our market footprints”.
Critical to this, he noted, has been the move to explore and tap into emerging markets “where the economies are growing and doing better and where the affordability levels are higher” rather than relying on traditional locations, such as the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada.
Among the emerging markets, he said, are the Middle East and several countries in Africa.
Bartlett, who noted that the Middle East market “is now opening”, said “we have, for the first time, the largest airline in the entire GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] Grouping, selling Jamaica… and we are already seeing results from that”.
He added: “This is a new area that has great interest for Jamaica… and we’re seeing that already. We have already been in consultation with the Saudia (formerly Saudia Arabian Airlines), Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, the Emirates Airlines, and the Royal Jordanian Airlines, and are looking to enable connectivity into our space.”
Additionally, he advised that he met with executives of RwandAir, Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways, noting that collaborating with these major entities “represent an opportunity for air connectivity between East Africa and Jamaica”.
PROJECTIONS FOR THE REST OF THE SUMMER ARE ‘VERY STRONG’
Bartlett also highlighted the prospect for collaborations with South African Airways and airlines in Nigeria.
In the meantime, based on the trend of the industry out-turns, Bartlett said the projections for the rest of the summer are “very strong”.
Said Bartlett: “June  outdid [June] 2019 and, in fact, is the first month of the year since the recovery began where we have actually surpassed the comparative month’s performance in the two-and-half-year period of the pandemic. So, Jamaica is trending ahead of the English Caribbean in every regard and certainly, in terms of the recovery, it’s very strong.”
Bartlett also projects 3.3 million visitor arrivals and earnings of approximately US$4 billion by the end of the 2022-2023 fiscal year in March next year.
“We are expecting, of course, that by 2024, we would have passed the 4.3 million visitors that we had in 2019, and we would be well ahead of the US$3.7 billion that we earned. In fact, it is projected that we will be over US$4 billion at that time,” he said.
Bartlett said this optimistic outlook was based on the fact that “Jamaica has enjoyed… in this post-COVID period… a higher level of ADRs [average daily rate] than we had before COVID”.
“We also have been able to have a new demographic coming [who] are spending a little more and are spending more time, also, out in the communities. So, a lot more of the attractions are being embraced, and the local foods and the local culture are being heavily, I think, consumed by this new demographic that is emerging,” he added.
He pointed out that the tourism industry’s recovery is also reflected in the GDP growth, noting the sector’s 107 per cent increase during the first quarter of the year.
Bartlett said this contributed significantly to Jamaica’s 6.4 per cent economic growth out-turn.
“The indications are that, having regard to April, May and June performances, that tourism will, again, be contributing in triple digits to the growth of the GDP for the second quarter,” he added.