(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett says, despite the myriad challenges that have faced the Caribbean for the first half of the year, the region has welcomed nearly a million more tourists than the same period last year.
“For the first six months of 2017, data compiled by the Caribbean Tourism Organization show that the region welcomed 16.6 million international tourists, or 800,000 more than in the first six months of 2016, constituting a growth rate of 5.2 per cent,” Bartlett disclosed.
He added: “Despite the multi-faceted challenges confronting the region, Caribbean tourism continues to grow at record pace. The tourism sector in the region was able to overcome early projections of downturn in global tourism receipts for 2016 — amid volatility and uncertainty in main source markets such as the USA and parts of Europe owing to Brexit, the US presidential elections, and terror attacks in Brussels and in other European cities — to grow at an unprecedented rate of 4.2 per cent in 2016.”
In fact, Bartlett said that the projection for Jamaica is well set to welcome four million arrivals for the year by next week.
“So far, Jamaica’s tourism performance for 2017 has been no less impressive than that of the wider region. We are already on track to surpass last year’s historic growth rate of four per cent or 3.84 million visitors in total. We welcomed over 3.3 million visitors in the first nine months of 2017 and we expect total arrivals to surpass four million by the first week of December,” Bartlett said.
The tourism minister recounted that, this year, the resilience of the tourism sector in the region has already been tested with the passage of hurricanes Irma and Maria, which affected 13 of the most tourism-dependent countries in the region.
The countries affected include St Martin, Anguilla, Dominica, Barbuda, St Barts, the British Virgin Islands, the US Virgin Islands, Turks & Caicos, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.
He was speaking on the theme: ‘The Future of Caribbean Tourism: Sustainability and Resilience’ at the opening of the UN World Tourism Organization Global Conference on sustainable tourism at the Montego Bay Convention Centre yesterday.
Bartlett said at end of the three-day conference, he is hopeful that a development path for the region will be mapped.
“At the end of this conference, I am very optimistic that we will be able to craft a global agenda that seeks to design collaborative approaches to mitigate shared tourism risks and strengthen resilience as well as build consensus around the strategies necessary to further position global tourism as a catalyst for promoting inclusive economic growth, sustainable livelihoods, environmental sustainability, and social development,” Bartlett said.
“I note that a conference of this nature and magnitude is very fitting and is indeed a timely response to some of the emergent issues that are posing a serious threat to the sustainability of the tourism product in the Caribbean and other tourism-dependent regions across the world,” he said.
The conference, which features players in the global tourism sector, including UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai, is said to be oversubscribed with just over 1,300 delegates registered.