KINGSTON, March 20 (Xinhua) -- The launch of a stimulus campaign that targets Jamaica's domestic tourist market with discount offers has drawn fire from the opposition.
Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica's opposition party spokesperson on tourism, said Wednesday that the launch of "Experience Jamaica" on Sunday, three months ahead of the usual slow summer season of tourism, is an attempt by the government to make up for the very weak winter tourim seaon.
In the previous three years, "Experience Jamaica" was launched at the start of the slow summer months and lasted up to early December, just before the start of the busy winter tourism season.
Statistics from the Jamaica Tourist Board show a 4.7 percent decline in international visitor arrivals in January compared with the same month of 2012. Preliminary figures for the months of February and March are also poor, according to Bartlett.
He described the downturn as a major crisis for the tourism industry since the winter tourist season is traditionally the best season and registers the most tourist arrivals.
Bartlett explained that the primary tourist sources for Jamaica -- the United States, Canada and Britain, which together account for 90 percent of foreign tourist arrivals -- all registered declining numbers.
The usually robust Canadian market witnessed a 15 percent decline for January, followed by Britain, a 17 percent decline, he said.
However, Tourism Minister Wykeham McNeill sought to downplay the significance of the underperformance, blaming it on what he described as a transition happening in the main tourist source countries.
"We have been experiencing a transition in the industry that, coupled with the persisting global economic conditions in markets such as the U.S., North America and Britain, has substantially affected our performance," he said in a statement.
Tourism, Jamaica's second-largest foreign exchange earner, contributes more than 13 percent of the country's gross domestic product.