Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, is reporting gross foreign exchange earnings of US$2.34 billion for the first 10 months of the year, representing a 10.8 per cent increase over the corresponding period in 2016.
The figure puts the country in good position to reach the US$3-million mark for the year.
“So, we have two full months to go, and last year, the earnings for the entire year were US$2.56 billion. So… it is just possible, with a little more effort, in the month of December in particular, for us to make US$3 billion in earnings,” Minister Bartlett said.
“That would be something very special, because we would break a new threshold,” he added.
He was speaking at the media launch of the 2017 Tourism Service Excellence Awards Programme at the Liguanea Club in New Kingston on November 14.
The Tourism Minister informed that the country is on course to reach four million visitors for the “first time in our history (in) the first week of December”.
He noted that the island continues to have record-breaking arrivals, welcoming 3.3 million visitors during the first nine months of the year, which represents an overall increase of 9.5 per cent.
Minister Bartlett said the sector has grown consistently over the last 36 years. “It is indeed the only sector that has grown consistently. This year’s growth, so far, has outstripped all other periods of growth that Jamaica has had in tourism,” he said while commending all the players who have contributed to the development.
He explained that several factors have led to the growth, citing the warmth of the Jamaican people, additional room capacity, and increased airlift.
“If you have air access, you can get to the destination, and that’s what we did. We went out there with a very ambitious plan. We have restructured the Jamaica Vacations Company, and we have created an opportunity for (it) to be able to reach more airlines and to work with tour operators and to bring more flights into the destination,” he noted.
He further cited the role of attractions, noting that “the number and quality of our attractions are ahead. In fact, we have, combined, more attractions than all of the rest of the English-speaking Caribbean”.
In the meantime, he expressed confidence that Jamaica will become the number-one Caribbean destination for the British market.
“As a matter of fact, we are leading at the moment, and I don’t see anything that will change that between now and the end of the year,” he said.
The Tourism Service Excellence Awards Programme is open to organisations and individuals that are exemplars in the field.
Nominees are drawn from all subsectors of the industry, including accommodations, craft, airport, tour and ground transport operators, rafting, and attractions or places of interest, and must display best practices and offer excellent customer service as well as environmental stewardship.