Record tourist arrivals over the Christmas season
Jamaica's tourist arrivals reached record numbers between December 21 and 23, with preliminary reports showing a 12.8 per cent increase over the same period last year.
Some 34,081 tourists arrived on the island during the period, in comparison to 30,202 during the same period in 2017, causing Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett to declare this past Christmas as the best ever in the country's history.
"This is a massive endorsement of the destination, which, in recent times, has been going through some challenges in the market. It underscores the continued and unrelenting programme that we have implemented to keep Jamaica pristine and top of mind in all the markets," Bartlett told The Gleaner from his home in Florida, United States, on Wednesday.
The majority of visitors who arrived over the three-day period came from the United States (US), the island's largest source market, followed by Canada and the United Kingdom (UK), Bartlett confirmed.
This performance equates to estimated earnings for this period of US$51 million, or just over half a billion Jamaican dollars, putting the country on a firm footing to earn a record US$3.3 billion from tourism in 2018.
"If the industry continues on this trend of earnings, Jamaica would have exceeded $1 billion in a matter of two years and three months, which would be unprecedented," declared Bartlett.
"That's huge for any country, particularly one as small as ours."
The arrival figures are a direct result of the 11 new gateways opened in the US in the last six months; three in Canada; and the expansion of South America by COPA Airlines, which now brings 11 flights per week into Jamaica from Panama.
In addition, the island now has direct flights from Moscow, and extra flights from the UK, France, and Germany.