Bartlett predicts fine figures for tourism sector
Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
DETERMINED TO battle the turbulent tides of the global economic environment, Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett yesterday boldly forecast a six per cent growth in tourist arrivals this fiscal year, after trumpeting a 3.6 per cent spike in visitor arrivals during a challenging period for the sector last year.
With its optimistic projections, the sector is aiming to smash the elusive two million tourist-arrival target for the first time in Jamaica.
The performance of Jamaica's tourism sector in 2009 has dwarfed its counterparts in the English-speaking Caribbean, who all recorded contractions in their tourism sectors.
Tourist-arrival figures declined by 10.2 per cent in The Cayman Islands, 11.4 per cent in The Bahamas, 8.7 per cent in Barbados, and 15.6 per cent in Cancún, Mexico. However, Cuba recorded a 3.5 per cent increase in visitor arrivals, while the Dominican Republic grew by 0.3 per cent.
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation has projected international tourism to grow by between three and four per cent this year.
In his contribution to the 2010-2011 Budget Debate in Gordon House yesterday, Bartlett said the tourism sector was seeking to pull in gross earnings of US$2.06 billion this year. Last year, the sector earned US$1.97 billion.
Bartlett told his parliamentary colleagues that, to date, the winter tourist season had recorded 70,000 visitors.
"And the month of March was spectacular! We had an all-time record number of arrivals at 12.7 per cent over last year," he added.
The projected earnings of little more than$2 billion for 2010-2011 represents 20 per cent of gross domestic product.
In terms of employment, Bartlett revealed that the tourism sector achieved a net gain of three per cent last year, with the sector projecting a further increase of 2,250 jobs when the Secrets Resorts and Palmyra come fully on stream.
Jobs in the sector increased from 35,257 in 2008 to 36,321 in 2009.
... defends TEF moves
TOURISM MINISTER Edmund Bartlett has dismissed concerns about the governance of the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), declaring that the operations of the fund are above board.
On Tuesday, Opposition Spokes-man on Finance Dr Omar Davies said there was an issue of gover-nance where the board of TEF "actually has more power in terms of the operations of the sector than the minister and Cabinet".
Yesterday, Bartlett responded, saying the TEF was fulfilling its mandate. He said the governance of the public body had not changed since the former tourism minister demitted office in 2007.
The minister said he found it strange for Davies to be questioning the operations of the TEF when the fund was supporting "the lifeblood activity of the industry".
Taking a swipe at Davies, Bartlett said in 2004, the Jamaica Tourist Board borrowed money from a commercial bank at market rates to fund marketing activities in the sector.
He said the US$10 million borrowed was only paid in full last year.