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The tourist industry recorded growth in both stopover arrivals and visitor spending in 2005, when compared to 2004, and preliminary estimates are that when all figures are in, the first quarter of this year will also show growth over the similar period last year.
This was noted by State Minister in the Ministry of Tourism, Entertainment and Culture, Dr. Wykeham McNeill, at the official launch of the Team Jamaica level one self-teaching CD-Rom, at Sandals Montego Bay, on April 5.
The State Minister pointed out that the country recovered from a dip in tourist arrivals in mid-2005, to record the best ever year for tourist arrivals with approximately 1.48 million stopover visitors. This, he said, was a 4.5 per cent increase over 2004, which was in line with the stop-over growth figures within the region for the period.
“Our visitor expenditure in 2005 was US$1.53 billion, a 6.9 per cent increase over 2004. The parallel increases year over year for 2003 and 2004 were 11.7 per cent and 6.3 per cent, demonstrating once again that we are on a steady growth path with greater increase in expenditure relative to arrival figures,” he added.
Dr. McNeill said that in 2005, Jamaica also recorded its best year ever in cruise passenger arrivals with 1.36 million passengers, a 3.3 per cent increase over 2004.
The State Minister expressed the view that for 2006 the sector would be able to maintain the momentum, with projections for further growth in the sector. He said that in January 2006 stopover arrivals increased by 11.9 per cent over the similar period last year and 19.5 per cent over 2003. Preliminary figures for February 2006 were also showing an increase of 13.9 per cent in stopover arrivals.
“We are still compiling the March figures, but so far the preliminary figures for March are at 9.2 per cent increase over 2005,” he noted.
Dr. McNeill projected that for the month of April the growth should continue and the figures should be showing double digit growth. He said that the continued growth in the sector should result in more job opportunities.