The tourism sector continues to be one of the fastest-growing sectors, and one of the leading contributors to global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), despite global, regional and local disruptions such as climate change, pandemics, terrorism, crime and cybercrime, Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, said Wednesday.
Bartlett, who was speaking in the annual Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives, said that preliminary data compiled by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) have indicated that international travel continued to perform strongly in 2017, further consolidating the tourism sector as a key enabler of economic development globally.
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He said that, according to the UNWTO, international tourist arrivals grew by a remarkable seven per cent in 2017, to reach a total of 1.3 billion visitors travelling around the globe.
“This strong momentum is expected to continue into 2018 at a rate of 4-5 per cent. This was the sector’s strongest performance in seven years,”he informed the House.
He noted that the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has stated that travel and tourism’s direct, indirect and induced impact last year accounted for a US$8.3 trillion contribution to Global GDP (10.4 per cent), and US$882 billion in investment (4.5 per cent of total investment)
“Beyond this strict economic contribution and perhaps most importantly, at the global level, according to the WTTC, in 2017 the industry accounted for 313 million jobs, or 1 in every 10 jobs, and more than 30 per cent of trade in services. The sector is thus positioned as a major contributor to sustainable livelihood and, by extension, national development,” the minister added.
He said that the enormity of the tourism sector today, has also been recognised by Wall Street, as global travel is now being seen as an attractive investment area.
“The Caribbean is the most tourism dependent in the world. The World Travel and Tourism Council highlighted that the total contribution of Travel & Tourism to (regional) GDP was US$56.4 billion (14.9 per cent of GDP) in 2016,” Bartlett stated.
“Last year, Caribbean tourism reached another major milestone, surpassing 30 million stopover arrivals for the very first time,” he also noted.
He told the Parliament that, despite global, regional and local disruptions, such as climate change, pandemics, terrorism, crime and cybercrime, among many others, the tourism sector continues to be one of the fastest-growing sectors and one of the leading contributors to global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Turning to the local tourism market, Bartlett said that he was pleased that the sector is expanding at an unprecedented pace, and remains poised to outperform the benchmark target of five per cent growth in five years that his ministry had set when he took office in 2016.
“For the second consecutive year, the growth of the tourism sector in Jamaica exceeded the projected five per cent annual growth,” he said.
“Last year, we brought 4.3 million visitors to our shores. It was the first time in the country’s history that we welcomed more than 500,000 new visitors in a single calendar year, which completely outpaced the combined aggregate growth under the roughly 4 years of the previous administration,” he noted.
He said that tourism arrivals in 2017 represented a 12.1 per cent increase in arrivals over 2016. The figure comprised 2.35 million stopover arrivals and 1.95 million cruise passengers. Revenue flow grew from US$2.5 billion in 2016 to a record revenue flow of approximately US$3 billion, last year.
He said that the most serious concern for tourism globally, regionally and locally, has been safety, security and seamlessness.
“This speaks to destination assurance — a key responsibility of the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo). The Caribbean has a reputation for being the safest warm weather destinations and we want to guard that jealously, which is why we must act proactively,” he said.
“The Ministry of Tourism remains committed to assisting the security forces to ensure that our destination remains safe and secure. In fact, through the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), we have committed over $1 billion to the Ministry of National Security to boost safety and security in Jamaica,” he stated.
“Since the operationalisation of the enhanced security measures in St James, we had seen a dramatic drop in incidences of homicides. Now, I will not deny that the implementation of enhanced security measures did in fact stir much concern, locally and internationally. However, well-thinking Jamaicans, and many of our partners overseas, welcomed the initiative as a necessary step and they continue to support the security apparatus in their efforts to make Jamaica a safe place for all,” he said.
“Thankfully, we were quick off the mark in immediately engaging all relevant players in the market here and overseas,” he added.
He thanked the prime minister, and his cabinet colleagues, for their “all hands on deck” support, including injecting needed resources, during the fragile period in the midst of the winter tourist season.
He also specially thanked the tourism industry stakeholders for working closely with the ministry.