Tourism Investment Opportunities in Jamaica

Tourist Arrivals

Jamaica has seen a steady increase in stopover visitors to our coast between 2004 and 2015, with all of 61.3% coming from the United States. There has also been a steady climb since 2010, in the number of visitors coming from Canada. Lining up behind these two top markets, are the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe. See appendix 2 for details of stopover arrivals.

Tourist Expenditures

Tourism continues to be Jamaica’s second largest earner of foreign exchange. The annual travel earnings alone is approximately US$2.2 billion. In 2004, total tourist expenditure was US$1.4 billion. By 2014, this amount increased by a whopping 36 %. See Appendix 3 for more information.

The Accommodation sector, however, is the biggest slice in the expenditure pie for stopover visitors, followed by Entertainment, Transportation and Shopping and Food and Beverage. Cruise passengers on the other hand, spend most of their money on attractions when they come ashore.

Tax Incentives for Tourism Investment

The Government of Jamaica recently implemented a very comprehensive set of incentives under the Omnibus Incentive Regime which seeks to streamline tax collection and provide incentives for businesses. Under this framework, tourism opportunities are afforded relief through the following:

The Fiscal Incentives Act, 2013 

This is targeted at small and medium size businesses and provides for the reduction of the effective corporate income tax rate by applying:

  • An Employment Tax Credit (ETC) at a maximum value of 30%
  • A Capital Allowance applicable to a broadened definition of industrial buildings

The Income Tax Relief (Large-Scale Projects and Pioneer Industries) Act

This is targeted at large-scale projects and/or pioneering projects and provides for an improved and more attractive rate for the Employment Tax Credit (ETC). Projects to be designated either as large-scale or pioneer will be based on the decision of Parliament having been informed by an Economic Impact Assessment. Revised Customs Tariff, 2013 This is targeted at the productive sectors and provides for the 0% duty on capital equipment and raw material. Persons in Manufacturing, Tourism and Creative industries stand to benefit from duty free importation of industry-related consumer goods.

INCOME TAX ACT (Junior Stock Exchange)

As of January 1, 2014, companies listed on the junior stock exchange will not be required to pay income tax in the first five (5) years. A company listing after January 1, 2017 will be ineligible for this incentive.

Productive Inputs Relief (PIR) 

The PIR provides for duty free importation of certain hotel industry-related items that would have normally attracted customs duties and the Additional Stamp Duty (ASD) when these are being purchased for productive use.

Also, tourism attraction projects can benefit under the Income Tax Relief (Mega Projects and Pioneer Industries) Act, where they qualify for an attractive rate under the Employment Tax Credit (ETC) system.

Timeshare Investment Opportunities

Jamaica welcomes potential investors to participate in the investment opportunities in the timeshare or vacation ownership market. In answer to the calls of investors who have shown interest in establishing the Timeshare/Vacation Ownership in Jamaica, the Tourism sector is now ready to implement this regulation. With the approval of the Timeshare Vacations Bill in the Jamaican Senate on November 28, 2014, the Jamaican Tourism sector introduced this exciting product in early May 2016. This framework is expected to churn new investments into the sector by welcoming new product offerings that will enable the country to capitalize on the demand of guests to own a second home in Jamaica or the Caribbean.

What is Timeshare?

Timeshare or vacation ownership is the acquisition of future holidays at today’s prices. 

Timesharing allows multiple individuals the rights to use the property within an allotted timeframe usually fixed to a particular week of each year.

This right being conferred is in consideration of a premium and an obligation to contribute to the maintenance of the property. Timeshare has become popular across the vacation destination segment of the hospitality industry.

There is an ongoing need for improvement in key aspects of the tourism product, including development and diversification, improving standards, upgrading of infrastructure in resort areas and human resource development. 

The Jamaican Government is anxious to develop a more sophisticated tourism product that embraces vacationers who are interested in time sharing, also known as Vacation Ownership.

Investment Opportunities in Jamaica’s Timeshare Market 

Presently, most of the hotels in Jamaica are located in Negril, Westmoreland, with 64 hotels and 5,364 rooms; followed by Montego Bay, St. James with 51 hotels and 7,918 rooms; and Ocho Rios, St. Ann with 40 hotels and 6,408 rooms.

While Jamaica has been seeing an increased number of visitors, this is being stifled by the lack of rooms to accommodate the growth.

Over the last 3 years, new investments in Jamaica’s hotel industry have been targeted at the higher end of the market with a focus on the luxury all-inclusive concept. Now is the best time for investors to come in and develop timeshare accommodations in Jamaica. Currently, Jamaica receives about 10% of the Caribbean tourism market and ranks third among the most popular destinations in the Caribbean. In addition to the island’s many beach attractions, Jamaica’s other popular attractions include the following:

  • Bob Marley Museum, Kingston
  • Rose Hall Great House, St. James
  • Dolphin Cove, St. Ann
  • YS Falls, St. Elizabeth
  • Devon House, Kingston
  • Green Grotto Caves, St. Ann
  • Dunn’s River Falls, St. Ann

Enabling environment for timeshare industry 

The Timeshare Vacations Act will ensure that the prescribed fee to be paid by developers for executing a timeshare plan is US$2.00 (or the equivalent amount expressed in Jamaican currency) for every 7 days of registration of the timeshare plan.

Tourism Development

Sustainability, Strategic Vision, Growth and Development - these are the four pillars on which the Tourism Master Plan for Jamaica is built. The government is moving forward with this Master Plan which seeks to guide the industry’s development over the next decade by creating a strategic vision for its growth and development and establishing an enabling environment to help it realize that vision.

In summary, the Tourism Master Plan has the following objectives:

  • Growth based on a sustainable market position. The industry needs to return to a path of sustained growth and to do so must develop a sustainable market position. In line with market trends, a sustainable market position must be based on Jamaica’s heritage – natural, cultural, historic and built; 
  • Enhancing the visitor experience. The current rundown resorts must be made more attractive; gaps in the product offer covered through mobilizing investment; and the visitor experience made more rewarding and diverse through increasing the types and quality of attractions. The aim should be to achieve self-sustaining growth based on word of mouth referrals and high repeat visitors;
  • Community based development. For sustainable development, local communities must play a major role in defining, developing and managing the tourism experience so that they take ownership of the industry and are committed to providing the visitor experience on which the success of the industry depends. Planning should be bottom-up, not top down;
  • An inclusive industry. From its current perception as an exclusive industry that benefits the few, the Jamaican people should come to view the industry as inclusive, benefiting them and the country as a whole. This will call for measures that ensure the benefits of tourism are spread widely and promote gender equality;
  • Environmental sustainability. The environment is an integral part of the product. Its continued degradation threatens the future of the industry and the lives of successive generations. The industry must contribute to the preservation of the natural habitat.
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