TOURISM IN MAJOR DECLINE! CONCERNS ABOUT CRISIS

ed bartlett1Opposition 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.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “TOURISM IN MAJOR DECLINE! CONCERNS ABOUT CRISIS

  1. I believe the tourism sector has been stagnant for some years, now (I suspect that the last administration also “hyped up” the figures a bit). Has the Tourism Ministry issued any numbers recently? All I saw was that cruise ship arrivals are now way above stopovers, which is not good because A) a lot of them don’t get off the boat and B) they obviously don’t spend so much money. I wonder what the average occupancy rate has been during the tourist season? My niece vacationed in the Caribbean recently – but in Antigua, where she and her boyfriend sailed yachts around and had a great time. Does Jamaica have a lot to offer? And was the Olympic Games really going to give such a huge boost to our tourism prospects? Where did all the promotional money go to in London last year?

  2. Denieca- Alexia

    Jamaica is one of the best tourist destination, certainly one of the most developed according to studies released. However it is leisure and luxury item and in a poor economy people will cut these expenses first. The majority of individuals are not taking a luxury vacation, though quality, it simple not happening in this economy. Personally, i don’t think the last minister of Tourism hyped the numbers as the above commenter suggest however, during the reign of the last administration, Canadians were on a whole traveling more. Impart due to the fact that, the Canadian economy emerged relatively better than there American counterparts from the 2008/2009 recession . However, in 2013 many domestic political factor inside Canada may have contributed to the decline in the consumption of the Jamaican tourism product. Most notably Carney telling Canadians to get rid of household debt and save ,save. save. In any event I am happy that there is a decline in tourism; since it will force government to diversify the economy and develop more viable sectors like; local industries and agriculture. It is my belief though many people will be hurt in the short run even more individuals will benefit in the long run — if we take the necessary steps to restructure the Jamaican Economy.

  3. Noel Richards

    Forget about Tourism ad campaigns for North America, word of mouth experiences carry the most weight by far, especially if there is a perception that Jamaicans live well in their own country. Don’t underestimate how uncomfortable Americans feel when they see poverty in Jamaica, after all, Americans give more than US$300 Billion to charities and causes each year. The best possible advertisement for Jamaica is the example visitors will see of a society that cares to the maximum for its own. Jamaicans need to start taking care of one another, not through Government since it has been THE problem, but through cooperating on a direction that has been agreed to.

    For now, focus on the US College scene for tourism. College students are more than prepared to travel during the coming Spring Break, and they will spend. It’s too late to catch the Spring Break crowd this year, but start the work for next year. College campuses are somewhat insular, therefore it is Jamaicaʼs responsibility to attract this group by visiting campuses in the US. It would have been a coup to have run an ad campaign during every US College Football Bowl game (millions of students, alumnus and alumnae watch these games every year from late December to early January). While College students are not the most desirable target market, Jamaica is not the upscale destination it used to be decades ago, for reasons directly related to the crass Spanish involvement and the degradation of the environment. My mother lives in Granada, Spain and on my extended visits there I have personally seen the result of Spain’s own flirtation with wild development on the Costa del Sol and elsewhere, which they have been hard at work reversing, to include razing buildings. The Spanish borrowed far too much from private foreigners to invest in Spain, Jamaica and elsewhere, and they are now paying a high price for having done so.

    Coupled with the over proliferation of automobiles that clog the roads and high crime rates, the ambience that WAS Jamaica’s biggest attraction has been diluted severely. I had a good conversation with a business colleague about Jamaica some years ago that was very interesting. He is originally from Kansas and had been a consistent visitor to Jamaica for at least three years running, but then he decided to alter his destination because he did not like the direction that Jamaica had taken with its presentation of itself, he sees it as false, not genuine. Americans really don’t want Disney when they visit an island like Jamaica, they get too much of that back home. He now goes elsewhere in the Caribbean. It should be noted that he was not attracted to Jamaica by an ad, but by word of mouth.

    College students are the least affected travelers during economic downturns, particularly during their rite of passage, Spring Break. The word of mouth advertising from younger visitors to the island to their peers and parents is priceless, assuming they have good experiences.

  4. Not sure that college students are a big enough market to rely on. Also, they don’t have much money to spend, especially these days. There is also a huge amount of competition from Mexico, which is cheaper. But Noel, I 100% agree with your first paragraph. Tourists are more perceptive than you think. They do notice things. I remember a letter from one visitor who had a nice holiday and then, as he arrived at the airport to go home, saw a security guard roughing up someone who appeared mentally ill. He went away with that image, and said he would never return to Jamaica. We need to clean up our act – no amount of glossy ads will do it for us.

    • Noel Richards

      We agree Emma, College students aren’t the long term lucrative target, I just see them taking up the slack and giving good word of mouth to their fellow students, parents and other relatives, assuming they had a good time. It’s in their parents, other relatives, and communities that I can see the most impact for the future. Jamaica is going to need everything it can get after the backlash from the lottery scam.

  5. And that still probably won’t be enough! But instead of worrying about tourists, as one of my friends online suggested – why not focus on improving Jamaica for JAMAICANS? Then the rest will fall into place…

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