Jamaica has long been one of the most popular tourism destinations in the Caribbean. White sand and turquoise waters coupled with numerous well-known cultural exports have kept the island nation […]
Jamaica has long been one of the most popular tourism destinations in the Caribbean. White sand and turquoise waters coupled with numerous well-known cultural exports have kept the island nation on the map for tourists for decades. New partnerships and initiatives taken by the government ensure not only that the country will remain a popular destination for decades to come, but also that the industry will remain a significant foundation of the economy.
Tourism has long played a significant role in the economy of Jamaica, dwarfing nearly all other local industries such as agriculture, mining, and financial services. According to research firm World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the total contribution of tourism to GDP is set to grow an impressive 4.9% in 2017 compared to the previous year, increasing to JMD555.1 billion, or approximately 31.1% of GDP, from JMD529.2 billion. WTTC predicts that in 10 years the industry will come to account for a massive 43.9% of GDP, or some JMD905.5 billion, following a 5% per annum rise.
Expectedly, with such a significant portion of GDP attributed to tourism, the sector also accounts for a high percentage of employment. WTTC reports that, in 2016, the total contribution of tourism to employment equated to approximately 318,000 jobs, or nearly 28% of total employment. A 4.3% increase is expected for 2017, bringing the number of jobs to 332,000 and share of employment to 32.2%. Like the sector’s contribution to GDP, its effect on employment is expected to grow to gargantuan proportions by 2027. WTTC estimates that by then the tourism industry will account for a total of 40% of employment in the country, following a 4.4% annual increase and accounting for just over half a million jobs. The country has welcomed a steady increase in tourist arrivals for decades. According to the World Bank, some 2.2 million tourists came to Jamaica in 2016, up from 2.12 in 2015. The country’s prime minister, Andrew Holness, recently announced plans to increase annual tourist arrivals to 5 million by 2020. This plan will require the country to produce at least 15,000 new hotel rooms. Most of the country’s tourism is located on the country’s northern coast, which includes Port Antonio, Ocho Rios, Negril, and Montego Bay. Many of the island’s hotspots for tourists are, unsurprisingly, located on the water, either on the beach or inland along rivers. Ocho Rios is a former fishing village that now welcomes millions of tourists every year. Tourists flock to Ocho Rios not just for the beach, but for the region’s culture and food. Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios is a popular destination away from the beach, featuring a 55m terraced waterfall with several small lagoons visitors can climb.
Negril is located on the island’s western tip and is known for its warm waters and bright white sand. It is sometimes considered the country’s party city. In recent years, Negril, which has on several occasions made it on a top 10 beach list, has seen a rise in luxury residential developments, geared toward not only foreign visitors but wealthy Jamaicans as well. Montego Bay, a destination oft referenced in popular culture, is located on the western edge of country’s northern coast and is perhaps the destination in the country with the most to offer. Its location in the north means it is lined with the white sand beaches the country is famous for, but travel inland and a score of other destinations can be found. Montego Bay is the location of Rose Hall, a recently refurbished plantation house open for tours and said to be haunted. Like nearly all other tropical developing nations with developed tourism infrastructure, the country’s ecotourism sector is budding as well. There are several eco lodges located throughout the country, and in many areas visitors are welcomed to camp using their own equipment. A popular destination for ecotourism is the country’s famous Blue Mountains. Here, the Jamaican Forestry Department offers numerous campgrounds tourists can stay at with a permit. Visitors can enjoy not only the magnificent views and seclusion, but also visit and volunteer at a plantation that produces the world-famous Blue Mountain Coffee.