KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett says Caribbean tourism continues to grow at record pace, with data from the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) showing that the region has welcomed 16.6 million visitors for the first six months of the year.

The figure is 800,000 more than for the similar period in 2016, constituting a growth rate of 5.22 per cent.

Minister Bartlett, who was giving the welcome address at the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) conference at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, said tourism in the region grew at an unprecedented rate of 4.2 per cent in 2016, outpacing the global average of 3.9 per cent.

This, he said, was amid volatility and uncertainty in main source markets, such as the United States and parts of Europe.

“The region welcomed a historic 29 million visitors in 2016, over one million more visitors than in 2015. The data for 2016 also indicate that cruise tourism in the region is booming, as cruise passenger arrivals grew by an estimated 1.3 per cent, to approximately 26.3 million in 2016,” he pointed out.

He said Jamaica’s tourism performance for 2017 has been impressive, with the country on track to surpass last year’s historic growth rate of four per cent or 3.84 million visitors in total.

“We welcomed over 3.3 million visitors in the first nine months of 2017 and we expect total arrivals to surpass four million by the first week of December,” he told conference delegates.