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AN OVERVIEW OF JAMAICA’S TOURISM MARKET BETWEEN 1990 AND 2005

By end December 2005, 1.47-million stayover tourist visited Jamaica representing a 49.4 per cent increase since 1990. During the last 15 years the annual growth in stopover visitors has been 2.75 per cent per year. However the average growth rate in tourist arrivals masks a considerable amount of volatility with a record annual year-on-year growth rate of 6.6 per cent in 2003 and a fall-out of minus 3.4 per cent in 2001.2 Over the period, the dominant share of visitors to the island has come from the USA, followed by the United Kingdom and Canada. Typical of mature destinations, Jamaica has been an average stay-day of 7.9.

Jamaica’s tourism sector has also exhibited increasing scale and consolidation. Over half of all rooms available are in large hotels (100+ rooms) and a rising number of stayovers choose hotels rather than villas and guest houses. The 59.0 per cent average occupancy rate over the last five years, with a maximum monthly occupancy rate of 77.0 per cent, is representative of the average occupancy rate in the Caribbean (McElroy and Albuquerque, 1998). This rate has been rising due to expanded promotion of all-inclusive hotels and increased marketing presence overseas. New room construction has increased the stock of rooms by 63.0 per cent since 1990 to a total of 26,039 rooms at end 2005. This represents an annual growth rate of 3.2 per cent, with a tendency to accelerate in recent years.3 , 4

The industry is the country’s major earner of foreign exchange. Over the period between 1999 and 2005, Jamaica enjoyed an average net surplus of US$1,100 million on the travel account in the balance of payments, representing an average increase of 4.2 per cent. In 2005, gross tourism foreign exchange earnings represented 89.8 per cent of the value of merchandise imports.

2 Growth in tourist arrivals was impeded by the events of 11 September 2001, which led to a 3.4 per cent decline in arrivals. In an attempt to attract visitors to the Island, given the fall in world travel, hoteliers were compelled to offer discounted rates in the following year.

3 Over the next five years, it is anticipated that over 12,000 new hotel rooms will be added along the islands north coast.

4 Similarly, over the period the number of beds in the industry has increased by 64.0 per cent to 53,030 at end 2005.

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