Tourism take-off

With local tourism interests upbeat and expecting a “very good winter tourist season”, the minister with responsibility for the sector Edmund Bartlett is even more bullish about the long-term prospects of the sector.

Bartlett on Sunday told the Jamaica observer that thousands of resort rooms are now under construction or being renovated across the island in what he described as the largest hotel and resort boom in Jamaica’s history.

“More than 6,000 rooms are being built or renovated as we speak,” declared Bartlett.

“This includes developments by Sandals; RCD Hotels with Unico and Hard Rock; Princess Resorts; Royalton; Bahia Principe; Grand Palladium and RIU, amounting to in excess of US$1.5 billion and creating more than 12,000 construction jobs.

“It is also very encouraging that RCD Hotels, the developers of UNICO and Hard Rock Hotels in Montego Bay, St James are keen on constructing hundreds of houses for the benefit of hotel workers. This is a necessary game changer as the labour and housing shortages given the current boom and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are putting a tremendous strain on our efforts,” added Bartlett.

He was speaking with the Observer less than 48 hours after participating in in the ground-breaking ceremony for the new UNICO property in Montego Bay.

Just recently, the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) announced that Jamaica’s economy grew by 4.3 per cent during the July to September quarter of 2022, compared with the same period in 2021, with the tourism and hospitality sector contributing significantly.

According to the PIOJ, the real value added for the hotels and restaurants sector was estimated to have grown by 29.6 per cent over the July to September 2022 quarter. Stopover visitor arrivals for the July to August 2022 period increased by 42 per cent relative to the corresponding period of 2021.

“So, you can see that tourism is proving to be the engine of our economy as we emerge from the pandemic-induced challenges of the last two years and major investments in our product, infrastructure and marketing are helping to ensure the industry’s sustainable, resilient and inclusive growth,” said Bartlett.

He added that overall, 2022 is proving to be a record year for arrivals with the Jamaica Tourist Board’s preliminary stopover figures for January 1 to November 21 indicating that Jamaica has already welcomed just over two million visitors.

In the meantime, senior advisor and strategist in the tourism ministry, Delano Seiveright, told the Observer that beyond the current hotel construction and renovation boom a number of new hotels, villas and condominiums, and hotel expansion projects are set to be launched in 2023 and 2024, which will amount to several thousand more new rooms and billions of dollars in investments.

“This is needed as we simply do not have enough rooms of a certain category to meet the demand for Jamaica that is out there. That plus labour, housing and global logistics chain supply issues present serious problems that we have to overcome, because in the end these investments are critical,” said Seiveright.

Just recently during meetings with key tourism stakeholders in the United Kingdom, which is seeing overall holidays to Jamaica selling at 25 to 40 per cent more than in 2019, several lamented the inability to properly fill demand due to a lack of hotel rooms at their required standard.

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