JIS News

Jamaica recorded its best ever year in tourism in 2004, reflecting an overall growth of 4.8 per cent, with a record 1,414,786 stopover visitors.
This was reported by Dr. Wykeham McNeill, State Minister in the Ministry of Industry and Tourism, when he spoke in the 2005/06 Sectoral Debate in the House on Wednesday, June 29.
He said the industry recorded remarkable growth in arrivals of 8.6 per cent between January and August of 2004, and was well poised to meet or surpass the 8 per cent growth target set for the year, when Hurricane Ivan intervened.
“This was a very commendable performance, given the damper put on arrivals between October and December,” he said.
Despite the hurricane in September, Dr. McNeill said growth in tourist arrivals between January and March of this year had reflected an increase of 7.9 per cent over the same period last year, allowing Jamaica to enjoy yet another record winter season.
However, arrivals in April of this year were down, largely due to the fact that the Easter holiday, a strong period for travel, fell in March rather than April. Therefore April was down, while March was up significantly.
Also noteworthy, he said, was the fact that record performance was achieved despite the closure of the 728-room Jamaica Grande hotel since last September, for refurbishing and re-branding. The sector has also been affected by the closure of the Ritz Carlton as a result of flooding. “We are of course extremely happy to welcome the re-opening of the Ritz Carlton on July 1 and look forward to the full resumption of operations at the Sunset Jamaica Grande later this year,” he said.
Dr. McNeill said gross foreign exchange earnings increased last year by 6.4 per cent, to reach US$1.437 billion. “Importantly, we are now earning more from each visitor to the island, with the average spending per person per night, having reached US$102, up from US$95 during the previous year,” he pointed out.
The State Minister said the industry was experiencing an unprecedented rate of new construction of hotel rooms, primarily on the North Coast. Approved developments set to come on stream in the short to medium term numbered between 5,000 and 6,000 new hotel rooms, he added.
“If we include those on the drawing board, this takes us to between 8,000 and 10,000 new rooms,” he said.