Jamaica ranked 69th out of 136 countries in The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI) 2017 posted on the World Economic Forum’s website last week, improving by seven places since the last report in 2015.
From a regional context, being pooled within North and Central America area, Jamaica was seventh behind North American neighbours USA (sixth) , Canada (ninth) and Mexico (22nd), with Panama (35th) and Costa Rica (38th) completing the region’s top five.
Caribbean neighbour Barbados (58th) ranked ahead of Jamaica, while Trinidad and Tobago (73rd) and the Dominican Republic (76th) trailed.
Still with Caribbean waters but grouped within the South America region, Colombia was 62nd and embattled Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela 104th.
The TTCI was critical of the North and Central American region for their heavy dependence on "natural resources" – sun, sea and sand, as we know it in Jamaica – whilst encouraging further diversification of the tourism product with more infusion of heritage and culture, a key feature in the South American countries.
Jamaica placed 67th out of the 136 countries in the category of natural resources, while for cultural resources placed 101st.
Central American and Caribbean countries continue to rely too excessively on their natural resources and have not made much progress in developing other tourism segments or complementing their beach offer with other activities, the report stated.
According to the report, The majority of the countries in the region rely on rich natural resources and good hospitality tourist service infrastructure to appeal to tourists, and they tend to be internationally open.
It is clear that most of the governments in the region understand the strategic role tourism plays for development and job creation and consequently support the sector proactively.
In this regard, Jamaica ranked 42nd, 49th and 55th for the business environment, tourist service infrastructure, and human resources and labour market pillars, respectively.
For the period being reported, 91,682 people or eight per cent of the population were recorded as employed to the sector which contributes US$1.26 billion to gross domestic product.
In terms of international openness, Jamaica placed 37th out 136, while for the prioritisation of tourism and travel pillar, the island received its highest rank of sixth.
Despite the improvement in rank, the country’s essential services weighed negatively on its position in the index.
With crime ravaging the western end of Jamaica, which is the preferred haunt of most tourists, the country ranked 119th in the category of safety and security.
For health and hygiene Jamaica placed 94 out of the 136 countries on the TTCI 2017, with the country’s health sector being threatened by mosquito-borne epidemics chikungunya and Zika virus.
The Cornwall Regional Hospital in the resort city of Montego Bay has had its fair share of challenges with noxious fumes circulating in the institution.
Jamaica also received praise for the development of its ground infrastructure,road networks and port facility), ranking 33rd, but in the case of air transport infrastructure was poorly placed at 83rd.
For the period reported, over two million international tourist arrivals were recorded; international tourism inbound receipts were estimated to be US$2.4 billion. The average receipt per arrival was US$1,130.
The Mona School of Business and Management at The University of the West Indies provided information for Jamaica toward the index.