Towards Sustainable Tourism in Jamaica

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Ian Boxill


The Jamaican tourist industry has witnessed explosive growth since the early 1970s. The growth in tourist arrivals was especially dramatic during the 1980s. At present tourism is the single largest source of foreign exchange earnings in Jamaida. The need for foreign exchange to service debts to multilateral agencies and to pay for imports has led to a situation in which tourism has assumed a central role in the economy. The tourism industry provides a quick and relatively efficient way of earning foreign exchange. To this end, the government has invested heavily in the tourism sector. For instance, between fiscal years 1979/80 and 1992/93, the Tourist Board budget increased by more than 300 per cnet. Today, only the Bahamas attracts more visitors to its shores than Jamaica in the English speaking Caribbean region. Tourism has also become one of the main sources of employment for the country. In 1986, stop-over vistior expenditure in the island supported over 250,000 full-time jobs, and every 2.34 stopover visitors supported one job opportunity (The Contribution of Tourism 1986, 32). In 1992, jobs in the accommodation sector were distributed mainly between the major tourist areas of Montego Bay (32.0 percent, Ocho Rios (34.2 per cent ) and Negril (23.1 per cent).

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