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Provisional figures from the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) show that the tourism industry earned some US$470.4 million from visitor arrivals during the October to December 2010 quarter.

Director General of the PIOJ, Professor Gladstone Hutchinson, addressing the quarterly briefing at the Institute's New Kingston offices on Wednesday (February 23), said the earnings reflect increased real value of 5.4 per cent in the hotels and restaurants sub-categories of the services sector, consequent on an 8.9 per cent growth in visitor arrivals.

This, he said, resulted from increases of 7.7 per cent and 11.2 per cent respectively, in stopover and cruise passenger arrivals to the island.

Quarrying and mining also grew by 20.4 per cent during the review period, as a result of the re-opening and resumption of operations at the West Indies Alumina Company's (WINDALCO) Ewarton, St. Catherine plant in June 2010.

Dr. Hutchinson said the re-opening was influenced by increased global demand for bauxite and alumina to meet the rise in industrial production in countries purchasing both materials.

"Total bauxite production increased by 12.2 per cent, reflecting the combined effects of increased alumina production by 30.2 per cent, where the average capacity utilisation rate at alumina refineries increased by 9.5 per cent, to 41.1 per cent," the PIOJ Head informed.

All other categories within the services sector, as well as the goods production; manufacturing; agriculture, forestry and fishing; construction; finance and insurance; transport, storage and communication, and electricity and water, recorded varying levels of decline, with the latter falling by some 7.7 per cent.

In the meantime, Dr. Hutchinson, said the economy recorded a decline ranging between 1.1 per cent and 1.3 per cent, up to December 2010.

He was quick to point out, however, that the decline appeared to be slowing, with the October to December 2010 quarter recording the lowest contraction in 10 quarters.

In terms of the outlook for the January to March 2011 quarter, Dr. Hutchinson was optimistic of the economy recording real gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the range of 0 to 1.0 per cent. He pointed out that economic activity is expected to be spurred by a continued strengthening of domestic and international demand.

Further, he said that most industries are expected to record growth, with mining and quarrying projected to record the strongest increase. Tourism, agriculture, transport storage and communications, and electricity and water, are projected to grow, he added, while pointing to positive data recorded in January for tourism and mining and quarrying.

"Preliminary data on the tourism industry indicates that airport arrivals for January 2011 increased by 7.6 per cent, and cruise ship passenger arrivals increased by 10.5 per cent. Total bauxite production grew by 36.5 per cent, due to a 42.2 per cent increase in alumina production and a 34.5 per cent increase in crude bauxite production," he said.

CONTACT: DOUGLAS McINTOSH