Wed | Oct 18, 2017

Jamaica tourism rank improved but still hurt by crime

Published:Wednesday | April 19, 2017 | 12:00 AMSteven Jackson

Jamaica has improved seven spots to rank 69th in the bi-annual Global Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017, published this month.

The island still trails Barbados at 58th but ranks higher than Trinidad & Tobago at 73rd and Dominican Republic at 76th.

"It's a fair score but we want to look at areas of safety and security," tourism minister Edmund Bartlett told Gleaner Business in a telephone interview.

Bartlett argued that the island's attractions, culture and infrastructure are world leading but that perceptions of security are what the publishers would give countries like Barbados an edge over Jamaica. The report, under the theme 'Paving the way for a more sustainable and inclusive future', was published by the Switzerland-based World Economic Forum (WEF), a non-aligned think tank. The Mona School of Business was the local partner institute for the report.

The island scored 119th out of 136 nations in terms of safety and security in the report's sub-ranking. Other concerns related to HIV prevalence, 117th; price competition at 122, aircraft departures at 112 and environmental sustainability at 121. Cultural resources sub-ranked at 101 due in part to few world heritage sites, while the number of international association meetings stood at 103.

The highest score related to the island's prioritization of travel and tourism at 6th and ground and port infrastructure at 33rd.

"That's not surprising and we are aiming to spend another $1 billion over three years to develop Hampden wharf in Falmouth while preserving the colonial architecture," Bartlett said.

Fly Jamaica Airlines described the highway infrastructure as so good that it obviates the immediate need for the airline to add an internal route from the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston to the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay.

"We do not have any internal flight from Kingston to Montego Bay because the roads are excellent," said Ronald Reece, chief executive at Fly Jamaica in an interview with Gleaner Business earlier this month.

Reece added that Jamaica as a destination remains strong due to its beaches, food, music and culture. In addition, it is geographically in the centre of the Caribbean in close proximity to North and South America.

"You will see a rise in the tourism product which is good for the country," Reece said.

The scores for Guyana and Haiti were not included due to insufficient data but they previously ranked worse than Jamaica. Several other Caribbean destinations were not mentioned, including Cuba, Antigua and The Bahamas.

Spain led the world, followed by France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom. The country with the lowest ranking was Yemen at 136th. The report ranked countries based on their score in its travel and competitiveness index. The index is comprised of 14 pillars. The inaugural Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report was done in 2007.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com