MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – Boosted by a 3.1 percent increase in arrivals between January and June 2015 over the corresponding period last year, Jamaica’s public and private sector leaders are upbeat over the continued growth in tourism.
Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill, has said, “This year we’ve had a very good year; our occupancies are up and we had an excellent winter.” The summer has also “been good” with growth over last year even though there was a decrease in accommodation, and indications for the 2015/16 high season is that “we are set to have a very good winter season,” he added.
The Tourism and Entertainment Minister and Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) President, Nicola Madden-Greig, painted a positive picture of the tourism industry at last night’s opening of the 25th annual Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX) marketing showcase at the Montego Bay Convention Centre.
Dr. McNeill said the continued increase in arrivals showed the extent to which Jamaica was attractive as a tourist destination.
In his opening address, Dr. McNeill remarked that with the success of the tourism sector, marked by the fact that it was doing extremely well and recording growth every year, growth had also returned to the main markets of the United Kingdom and the United States even as new markets are being opened each year.
He noted that the growth was also being reflected in increases in cruise arrivals and air travel with Sangster International Airport “bursting at the seams” last winter. “We already have flights from Nordic countries such as Norway and Sweden and next year we will see the first direct flight from Dublin, Ireland to Montego Bay,” he said.
Minister McNeill noted that the shortfall in rooms created by the high demand for Jamaica was being addressed through high investment in the sector, including 1,600 new rooms being constructed and properties being refurbished to be ready for the winter tourist season.
“Jamaica is evolving. We’re seeing investment in our product and taking it up into exciting realms. This means that our accommodations are now on the cutting edge and are of a high standard capable of meeting the demand of the new and sophisticated market,” he said.
Dr. McNeill also reinforced his position that the industry was of critical importance to the country and its people as tourism remained a catalyst for economic growth. He was therefore pleased that the initiative of creating a Tourism Linkages Hub was very successful.
The Linkages Hub seeks to ensure that products and services which are utilized in the tourism sector are grown or manufactured in Jamaica. “The linkages programme is enjoying great success which we can attribute to the outstanding level of cooperation, collaboration and partnership between my ministry and the private sector,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Madden-Greig also declared, coming from more than 2 million stop over visitors and 1.26 million cruise ship passengers in 2014, “the outlook for 2015 continues to be promising and we’ve already seen a 3.1 percent increase between January and June for this year. And we think that the 2015/2016 winter season will be even more successful.”
She said the Caribbean landscape was changing and referred to the opening up of Cuba to the North American market, adding, “I personally believe that this is an opportunity to promote a new Caribbean.”
Mrs. Madden-Greig spoke of the opportunity of promoting twin destinations with Cuba and developing Caribbean cruise tourism taking in Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cayman. She underscored however, that while pursuing partnership across the western Caribbean, it must be borne in mind that “Jamaica comes first.”
According to her, the 25th JAPEX event was being hosted a time of “great optimism, change, positivity and innovation,” adding, it had assembled over 230 of the best in the local hospitality industry and attracted some 300 delegates representing the world’s major wholesale, retailers, travel agents and media from the USA, Australia, Colombia, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Spain, Trinidad, Mexico, Martinique, St Lucia, Peru, Switzerland, the UK and Brazil.