December 17th, 2017

The tourist industry started its traditional high season Friday shattering all previous records for visitor arrivals, by welcoming the four millionth tourist so far this year.

Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett led a team of officials in a surprise welcome at the Sangster International Airport for Jill Bell of Wisconsin USA, who with her husband Steve, has been to Jamaica 25 times so far, the last ten of which was at Christmastime.

“Our home away from home; it’s our second home, as we call it,” Bell said as she assured the minister that they would be back next year for another Christmas.

“You make us feel welcome and you are part of our family, just as how we try to make you a part of our family and learn about you and your families,” she added.

At a VIP reception for the history-making visitor, Bartlett said that he was proud to be the fortunate one “to stand in the breach at this time for the four millionth visitor gracing the shores of this beautiful country.”

He disclosed that the four million visitors to Jamaica so far comprise 1.9 million cruise passengers and 2.1 million stop -over tourists.

Also, he said it was expected that the year would end with about 2.3 million stopovers and 2.1 million trippers combined, contributing just under US$3 billion to the Jamaican economy.

Matched against last year’s arrival figures, nearly 500,000 new visitors will be travelling to Jamaica this year for a total of 4.3 million.

“And that is a record of all records,” Bartlett noted, as he explained it as an 11.6 per cent increase in arrivals and an 11.7 per cent increase in earnings over last year.

He noted that Jamaica has been experiencing record arrivals since April, with double-digit growth each successive month, although in the first week of December the airports were closed and flights diverted to other islands because of problems with Jamaica’s radar system.

He said there would be 100,000 additional seats for the winter and 4,799 new rooms between now and 2019.

“In the next few days, we will be concluding discussions with three major investors for ground-breaking activities that will happen in the first quarter of next year and the long-awaited Karisma development will in fact start construction in April of next year for the first three hotels with 2,500 rooms,” he also noted.