KINGSTON — Prospects for the local tourism industry remain positive, despite the downturn in the sector globally, with some 1,044,137 airlift seats secured for the upcoming winter tourist season.
This represents an increase of 5.6 per cent over 2010, and a 4.7 increase over the 2011 season, Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, told members of the business community and other stakeholders at the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors Luncheon Forum, held on November 15, at the Knutsford Court Hotel, in Kingston.
"This will allow us to bring in 769,385 visitors for the winter, which will be a five per cent increase over the winter last year. For cruise arrivals, we will have a whopping 48.4 per cent increase in the 2012 winter, over (last winter)," Mr. Bartlett informed.
This translates to some 583,186 cruise ship passengers, bringing the total visitors projected to arrive in Jamaica for the winter season to some 1.352 million.
"That will represent a 20.2 per cent increase over last year, and the earnings we expect to derive from this will be US$843 million, an 8.2 per cent increase over the year before. So, those who are planning for next year, this is what the projections are – they are based on the fact that we have gone out there, built the market, and we know where the goods are coming from,” the Minister asserted.
Arrivals from the United States are expected to be 266,000 airlift seats (a 1.9 per cent increase over last year). “For the state of the US economy, that’s good going,” he noted. Some 274,162 passengers are expected out of Canada, representing a 15 per cent increase in airlifts out of that country for the season.
Turning to the United Kingdom, he said this is “the problem child,” as a significant downturn is expected in airport arrivals from that market, due to the increase in the British government’s Air Passenger Duty (APD).
Mr. Bartlett noted that he is still lobbying for changes to the APD, and had last week, along with Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) representatives, met with the UK’s Minister of the Treasury, Leonard Smith. Mr. Bartlett has also met with Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Jeremy Browne, on the issue.
Currently, the manner in which the APD is applied makes it cheaper to travel by air from any point in the UK to any point in the United States, than it is to fly between the UK and Jamaica, despite the latter being a shorter distance. This is due to the fact that Caribbean destinations are in a separate band (band C) from the US, and passengers charged at a higher tax rate.
By Alphea Saunders, JIS Reporter