By Douglas McIntosh
KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) -- Preliminary figures from the ministry of tourism and entertainment show that Jamaica received 10,000 additional stopover visitors during the 2013/14 winter tourist season.
This represents a two percent increase over the previous corresponding period.
This increase, according to portfolio minister, Dr Wykeham McNeill, has resulted in a number of “positive trends” currently occurring in the tourism industry in relation to occupancy rates, room rates, and strong growth during the summer tourist season.
He outlined these developments during his 2014/15 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, under the theme: ‘Tourism: Delivering on its Promise of Opportunities and Growth’.
In relation to occupancy rates, McNeill said that these increased by 9.1 percent in all categories of properties in 2013, compared to 2012.
This, he explained, was influenced by: longer stays at properties by stopover visitors, particularly those from the European market; and more Jamaicans vacationing at home, “as the industry is more aggressively courting the domestic market.”
With respect to increased room rates, the minister described this as a “very encouraging development”, noting that “our largest tour operator in Jamaica has confirmed that our average daily rate is up, somewhere between 13 and 15 percent.”
McNeill advised that the 2013 summer tourist season grew by 3.6 percent, pointing out that this trend continued into the winter, which recorded two percent growth.
Part of this strong growth in the summer, he added, “is leading us to become a year-round destination, and we are poised to continue this growth, again, this summer.”
“While we still depend on the winter season, the truth of the matter is that the summers are getting stronger. The truth of the matter is (that) last year’s winter was down a bit, we had a decline in the winter… and it was the strong growth out of the summer that allowed us to end the year with positive growth,” he said.
The minister said, while winter remains the period that records the highest occupancy levels and best rates, “it is the growth in summer arrivals that is ensuring that we have a stronger year-round performance.”
“Jamaica is being transformed into a year-round destination, taking the place of what was traditionally a very seasonal industry. This transformation will create increased job opportunities and greater job security for our workers. We will continue our push to build a year-round sector, through strategic marketing efforts and diversification,” McNeill said.