Tourism is an important part of Jamaica's economy. Because of the island's
warm climate and year-round sunshine, its beaches and beautiful landscape,
many thousands of people from all over the world come here each year for
Jamaica's tourism had its beginning in the latter part of the
nineteenth century when invalids started coming to Jamaica to escape the
cold winters in England and North America. The first tourist hotels were
built in Montego Bay and Port Antonio. The now defunct Myrtle Bank Hotel
in Kingston was built in 1892. In those early days, tourism was limited
largely to the rich, the old, the few.
Tourism began to prosper in Jamaica after World War I, when improved methods
of transportation made it easier for people to get from one country to
the other. Indications are that in the early 1920s the number of tourists
visiting the island annually probably did not exceed a few thousand. By
1938 the figure had risen to 64,000, and in 1952 the number of arrivals
almost doubled to over 104,000; in 1966 the number exceeded 345,000, and
in 1970 nearly 415,000. In 1982 it exceeded 600,000. Since the 198788
season, the number of visitors has exceeded one million a year and has
continued to grow, partly as a result of the great increase in the arrivals
of cruise-ship passengers. Total arrivals for 1993 were 1,616,430.
Mainly because of the white-sand beaches and pleasant weather,
Jamaica's north coast has become the island's tourist centre, the main
points being Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Port Antonio. Many tourists visit
Kingston, but this city is most important as a commercial centre and the
seat of the Government.
Today, tourism is considered Jamaica's second most important earner of
foreign exchange. Stores, restaurants, transportation, and many other activities
that cater to tourists also provide direct employment in the industry.
Many other Jamaicans in every sector of the economy earn part of their
income from tourism. For example, farmers supply food to the hotels and
restaurants, and skilled carpenters make furniture; but there is no available
estimate of this indirect employment. The centre of the tourist industry
is the Jamaica Tourist Board. Originally created in 1922 by Government
as the Jamaica Tourist Trade Development Board, the present Board was reorganised
in 1963 and a full-time Director of Tourism appointed. There is also a
Ministry of Tourism.
A notable change in Jamaica's export economy since Independence
has been the development of non-traditional exports. These include flowers
and ornamental plants, specialised tropical fruits, art and crafts. New
growth industries include garment manufacturing, particularly as a result
of the Caribbean Basin Initiative, data processing, music and entertainment.