Gay Nagle Myers
Gay Nagle Myers

While most Caribbean countries have not yet released year-end tourism numbers and earnings for 2016, Jamaica's numbers point to a record-setting year coupled with an upbeat forecast for 2017.

"We'll end the year having welcomed 2.2 million stopover arrivals and 1.7 cruise passengers, which represent $2.7 billion in tourism revenues," the country's minister of tourism, Edmund Bartlett, said.

By comparison, Jamaica recorded 2.1 million stopover visitors and 1.5 million cruise arrivals in 2015.
The U.S., Jamaica's primary source market, grew by 4.6% this year.

Regarding the cruise numbers, Bartlett cited the calls of six cruise ships on one day, Dec. 14, in the ports of Falmouth, Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Kingston, a feat that's only happened once before in the past four years.
"Kingston as a cruise port is getting a great response," Bartlett said. "The port and the city have great potential, and we hope to see more ships calling there."

The island's accommodations sector witnessed a boost in room stock in 2016. The on-island room count this winter season totaled more than 26,000 rooms, a 15% increase over a year ago. Bartlett hinted at "a number of new brands to be announced in the first quarter of 2017, which will add 10,000 new rooms in the next few years."

More for 2017

"Throughout 2017, we will continue our focus on health and wellness offerings, shopping, culinary tourism and the meetings and convention sector as well as all facets of leisure tourism," Bartlett said.

A new tourist attraction could be in the works: Preliminary work for resuscitating Jamaica's rail network is set to begin early this winter, with the first phase set to connect Montego Bay with Appleton on the island's southwest coast, a distance of approximately 75 miles.

For 2017, air connectivity will continue to be a challenge, the minister said.

He said Jamaica would focus on new markets such as China, Argentina, Brazil, Eastern Europe and India. "Visitors from these countries and areas are coming to Jamaica through the U.S., Canada and London, and we have to work to sustain ease of access through reliable routes and networks," he said.

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