Speaking at the Jamaica House press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister, on February 15, Dr. McNeill explained that during that period, for the most part, stopover arrivals remained relatively flat, experiencing growth in only three of those months, resulting in a 0.8 decrease overall.
He pointed to a number of factors which contributed to that decline, including the slowdown of the economic recovery in Jamaica’s main tourism markets, such as the United States, Canada and Europe.
“There was an overall decrease in airlift, especially out of the north east United States, where over 10,000 seats were lost from JFK alone, representing a 9 per cent decrease. During this period too, there were several mergers of major airlines, which have consolidated their routes, resulting in loss of seats,” the Minister said.
The recent Airport Passenger Duty (APD) applied by the United Kingdom that has raised the cost of travel, has also affected arrival figures and continues to hamper efforts, he noted.
Another issue is the unseasonably warm weather in the main markets where temperatures have reached record levels. “The impact of this is shown in the December and January arrivals with a 2 and 3 per cent
He said that in light of these developments, the Ministry is taking a number of actions, including advertising. “As of two weeks ago, the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) has gone on television in the US and Canada, with particular intensity in the Tri-State area (New York, Connecticut and New Jersey). The JTB has also started advertising on television in the UK for the first time in many years,” he informed.
Promotion is another target area, with Jamaica’s participation in the annual travel show for the region, Caribbean Marketplace, two weeks ago. The JTB will also be heading to the International Tourism Convention (ITB) in Berlin in another two weeks, to continue shoring up its campaign. The ITB is the largest tourism travel show in the world.
Meanwhile, Minister McNeill announced that 457 rooms had been brought back on stream with the re-opening of the former Hedonism III, and Braco hotels. He noted that during the year, the sector was hampered by the closure of a number of hotels, which had affected arrival figures.
“With these moves, we are hoping to see positive effects on our arrivals and the Director of Tourism has indicated that given the figures, we are arresting the downward turn,” he noted.
By Alphea Saunders, JIS Senior Reporter