JHTA cites US election, Olympics for summer slowdown
Political uncertainty in the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as the Rio Olympics, are being cited as factors in the flattening of summer tourist visits to Jamaica.
The Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) expects US arrivals to pick back up after the presidential election set for November 8.
"Usually during US elections, the numbers are not robust because people are uncertain. We are also now feeling the effects of Brexit and there's Zika," said Omar Robinson, president of the JHTA, in a Financial Gleaner.
He later included the Olympics in his list. "Oh, I almost forgot about that," he said.
The British vote in favour of leaving the European Union trading bloc, commonly called Brexit, occurred in June; the Olympic Games were held in August.
August stopover tourist arrivals to Jamaica totalled 169,063 or 40 persons less than a year ago. It represented one of the few months of declines for 2016.
Arrivals from UK are down 2.9 per cent; so too Canada, down by 3.9 per cent; while the US recorded a marginal spike of 0.6 per cent. The flattening of the US market remains particularly worrisome, as 65.8 per cent of total arrivals between January and August came from that source market.
"It will pick back up after the elections," he said, referencing the US presidential polls.
Robinson was also bullish on the outlook for the peak winter tourist season, saying it remains strong."It's now starting to get cold and whichever candidate wins it will still be cold," he said.
The winter season kicks off annually on December 15.
The chill of winter typically pushes tourists to Jamaica, and is the period when the hotels are most full.
Year to date, January to August 2016, stopover tourists arrivals increased 2.4 per cent to 1.53 million.
Robinson declined to comment when pressed on whether the JHTA views on whether a president Hillary Clinton would be more favourable for business for large hotels or Donald Trump, or which of them would more benefit smaller villa operations, which in recent years benefited from Russian visitors. The subtext of Trump's campaign involves repositioning US and Russia relations.
"The JHTA doesn't hold positions on elections whether here or overseas," said Robinson. Nor does the association endorse candidates, he added.
In 2014, Russia was the fastest growth market for the island, albeit from a small base. Those visitors frequented smaller resorts with European plans as opposed to all-inclusive plans. The Russian arrivals quickly disappeared as the Russian economy faltered due to a mix of US/EU sanctions and plunge in oil prices.
Requests for comment from different villa owners and small hotel operators were unanswered up to press time.