(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – THE Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) says provisional data have shown that a record 4.3 million tourists visited Jamaica in 2017.
Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett said the the figures represent a 21.1 per cent increase over arrivals in 2016.
“We broke the four million mark in December and by the end of (the month) we had gone to 4.3 million arrivals. It comprised 2,353,461 stopover visitors and 1,946,780 cruise passengers, providing a revenue flow of approximately US$3 billion,” he said.
The minister was speaking at the official opening of the Knutsford Express bus service depot at the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay on Tuesday.
Bartlett said the historic tourism out-turns for 2017 were milestone achievements for Jamaica, noting that “it is the first time that…we brought more than 500,000 additional visitors in a single calendar year”.
Noting that Jamaica earned US$2.56 billion in 2016, he said last year’s revenue inflow indicated that “we have (generated) nearly US$500 million of additional earnings in one single year”.
Against this background, Bartlett lauded the industry’s stakeholders, including entrepreneurs and workers, for their collective contribution to the exponential growth in visitor arrivals and earnings in 2017. He was also optimistic that this momentum will continue in 2018.
Meanwhile, the minister pointed out that new trends developing in tourism globally are resulting in an increasing number of travellers seeking “authentic experiences” when they visit destinations.
Bartlett contended that Jamaica is a prime destination for this emerging market, especially with the rapid rise of American online marketplace and hospitality service, Airbnb, which facilitates the ease of homeowners globally, leasing or renting their properties to tourists.
He advised that the 55,000 tourists visiting Jamaica in 2017 booked via Airbnb, up from 35,000 in 2016, “which means that we have added over 20,000 new visitors with a different type of demand for experiences in our space”.
“These visitors are not necessarily staying in hotels. They are more likely to book via Airbnb. They want to immerse themselves in local culture — the food, music, people and communities — and I believe Jamaica is a natural attractor with its rich heritage,” Bartlett said.