Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett says the sector is poised to exit 2019 and enter 2020 on the back of a healthy 10 per cent increase in earnings and an equally impressive 1.7 per cent spike in visitor arrivals, based on the out-turns for December.
According to Bartlett, the figures, which will translate into a US$400-million increase in earnings and 181,000 more visitors, relative to the corresponding period in 2018/19, are a direct result of “the best December ever” in Jamaica’s tourism history.
“This was a December to remember. The airports were simply bursting at the seams. We have never seen these kinds of numbers [of stratospheric proportions] before… and the kind of momentum that will take us into 2020 and beyond,” the minister said Jamaica recorded US$3.3 million in earnings and 4.3 million in arrivals in 2018.
Bartlett said Jamaicans can also take great comfort in the fact “that the best is yet to come” and that there will be no complacency or letting up in the pursuit of new markets and the building of more hotel rooms in 2020.
“We should all expect an encore or even more in 2020 based on projections. The results we have been seeing are not just mere coincidences but are based on strategic planning and hard work… and we expect to get even better results as we go along,” the Minister contended.
Bartlett further indicated that while he is elated with the sector’s overall performance, he is equally “or even more enthused” with the focus and engagement of the local workforce.
He pointed out that employment has increased from 117,000 to 127,000 direct jobs, while generating indirect jobs for another 250,000 Jamaicans.
The minister added that these jobs are linked to sectors such as technology, agriculture, creative industries, manufacturing, transportation and other services.
He said that employment in hotels and restaurants rose by four per cent between January 2017 and January 2019, representing about 5,000 more jobs created than in the previous two-year period.
Bartlett noted that the growth in tourism underscores the invaluable worth of the sector as a powerful driver of economic and social development.
Additionally, he said the local industry’s ongoing growth will depend on having the right people with the requisite skills being available to meet the sector’s new human capital demands.
“I am particularly pleased because we have placed a lot of focus on our workers…from housing to the pension scheme. We have more workers being trained and certified than ever before and are ready to take their rightful place in the top-paying jobs in the sector,” the minister stated.
This, Bartlett pointed out, results from the appropriate systems being in place “where we are training some of the best workers the sector has ever seen”.