Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Jamaica visitor arrivals hit record at half year

Published:Wednesday | September 7, 2016 | 9:00 AM
Seaside gazebos in the resort city of Montego Bay.

Jamaica welcomed a record 2.08 million visitors by air and sea for the first six months of 2016, or 7.7 per cent higher year on year, according to the latest data from Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB).

This puts arrivals on a path to surpass the four-million visitor mark for the full year. It would smash the previous annual record of 3.66-million visitor arrivals in 2015.

"Destination Jamaica continues to offer a diverse product of very high quality to its visitors through its expansive and inclusive nature," said the JTB in its annual Travel Survey 2015 published this month on its newly redesigned website.

The JTB's monthly statistics for June 2016 signalled that the island benefited from increased cruise calls and increased airlift. The bulk of the additional business resulted from the 14 per cent growth in cruise arrivals, which totalled some 949,000 up to June.

CRUISE SHIP CALLS

The city of Montego Bay received the most cruise ship calls at 111 for the half year welcoming 250,000 passengers up 41 per cent year on year. The town of Falmouth received less calls but still held the bulk of arrivals by sea at 440,000 visitors up in single-digit levels year on year.

Stopover arrivals or visitors, which mainly arrived by plane, grew to 1.3 million up 2.5 per cent year on year. The US market contributed to the bulk of the growth up 5.6 per cent to some 732,000 visitors. Within the US, the main growth market was Texas, up 25 per cent to some 33,700 visitors.

Contrastingly, Canada, once the fastest growth market, recorded some 206,000 visitors or 10 per cent lower year on year, due to its weakening economy. Meanwhile, the European market, emerging from recession, grew 7.3 per cent to some 146,200 visitors.

The JTB report said that during January-June 2016, the average length of stay of foreign national arrivals in all types of accommodation was 8.3 nights, the same level as 2015. For the non-resident Jamaican arrivals, the average length of stay was 15.7 nights, compared to 15.1 nights in 2015.

The report added that 89 per cent of stopover arrivals visited Jamaica for leisure, 4.8 per cent on business and 5.1 per cent for other purposes. The bulk of visitors rested in Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, and Negril.

In 2015, the gross visitor expenditure was estimated at roughly US$2.4 billion or seven per cent higher year on year. When disaggregated, total expenditure of foreign nationals amounted to US$2.19 billion, cruise passengers at US$137 million, while US$77 million for non-resident Jamaicans. The sector employs 39,255 persons directly or 11.6 per cent more than a year ago.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com