Opposition Spokesperson for Tourism and Travel Service Development and former Tourism Minister, Mr. Edmund Bartlett said that the tourism sector is recording for the first time in many years declining tourist stopover arrival numbers, with five consecutive months of decline since October last year. Mr. Bartlett said the situation is now bordering on a major crisis as the winter tourist season is traditionally the best season of all and registers the most tourist arrivals for the country.
He said that the Minister of Tourism Dr. Wykeham McNeill and State Minister Damion Crawford have failed miserably at maintaining the strong growth numbers left to them by the previous JLP government, which was particularly remarkable given the terrible impact of the global economic crisis that began in 2008. Even in those rough times worldwide Mr. Bartlett said, we worked hard at ensuring that we were in growth mode.
Mr. Bartlett said the situation in the sector has gotten so bad that several hotels are rotating staff, which is highly unusual for the winter tourist season. The falling numbers has also negatively affected inflows in foreign exchange, with the US dollar now going for over J$97 to US$1. Tax inflows and Tourism Enhancement Fund fees are also badly affected.
Mr. Bartlett said the declining numbers since October are on average two per cent per month with January’s fall off running at a whopping 4.7 per cent. He also noted that the primary tourist markets for Jamaica – The United States of America, Canada and the United Kingdom which account for 90 per cent of the traffic are all registering declining numbers, with the usually robust Canadian market registering a crisis like 15 per cent decline in January alone. The United Kingdom market on the other hand registered a 17 per cent decline last year and a whopping 12 per cent fall off for January this year. This Mr. Bartlett said only goes to highlight the government’s failure at properly positioning Jamaica in the market during the mega popular London 2012 Olympic Games last summer where the government spent £1 million or J$140 million on promotional activities.