Tourism foreign-exchange earnings up 4.6 per cent
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
GROSS FOREIGN exchange earnings from tourism increased by 4.6 per cent in January to April, portfolio minister Dr Wykeham McNeill has said. Total earnings, which McNeill said are preliminary, was measured at US$875 million, up from US$836.4 million over the corresponding period last year.
The vast amount of the earnings came by way of stopover arrivals, which increased by 4.6 per cent, up to US$824.9 million, and cruise-passenger earnings, which provided $50.1 million.
The level of the increase in tourism earnings nearly doubled when compared with the devaluation in the exchange rate, which saw the Jamaican dollar losing 2.8 per cent over the period. The Government has said the devaluation of the Jamaican dollar is being done to make Jamaican exports, such as tourism, more competitive.
Economist John Jackson said there is not necessarily a direct correlation between the exchange rate devaluation and the increased foreign exchange earnings.
"There are a number of factors when you are supposedly uncompetitive that will come into play," Jackson told The Gleaner, while noting that many hotels do their bookings well in advance of the dollar being devalued, and thus are not able to use lower rates as an immediate drawing card.
Total stopover arrivals for January to April 2014 increased marginally by 1.4 per cent, moving from 712,204 visitors to 722,264, influencing the 4.6 per cent increase in earnings over the period.
Jackson noted that with newer hotel rooms going on stream during the winter season, tourists may have been incentivised to stay at those properties at a lower cost.
"What the devaluation does from an occupancy standpoint is to allow a hotel that is under pressure to compete with the newer rooms and, therefore, they will have to probably reduce their rate," the economist said.
In the meantime, McNeill said cruise-passenger arrivals are projected to increase to a record 1.4 million passengers this year.
The minister, in contributing to the Sectoral Debate, said for the first four months of the year, there has been a 3.6 per cent increase in cruise arrivals, which he said represents a recovery from a 4.2 per cent decline last year.
"We expect cruise arrivals to continue to escalate with the arrival of the largest of Disney's ships, the Fantasy," he said.
The minister further said the Mediterranean Shipping Company's Divina will be calling throughout the summer.
According to McNeill, at the end of the calendar year, three cruise ships will be home-porting in Montego Bay, St James, which will create the opportunity for the marketing of local goods and services.
Additionally, he said home porting will mean that visitors will have to fly into the Sangster International Airport in order to board the cruise ships.