- Growth was very encouraging on the cruise side, with 1.4 million visitors projected to arrive by sea in 2014, which would make it a record year.
- While 86 percent of visitors to the island come from North America, Minister McNeill emphasised the importance of diversifying tourism markets.
- Montego Bay will seeing an increase in visitors from Europe, in particular Scandinavia.
Even as Jamaica anticipates having a landmark two million stopover visitors before the end of 2013, there are expectations for continued growth in arrivals by both stopover and cruise ship passengers for the year ahead.
Speaking on the heels of the official start of the Winter Tourist Season, Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill said, “We are encouraged by the number of advanced bookings that our hotels are receiving. This as a result of the excitement that brand Jamaica still generates in both our traditional and non-traditional markets.”
Concurrently, he said growth was also very encouraging on the cruise side, with 1.4 million visitors projected to arrive by sea in 2014, which would make it a record year.
Dr. McNeill was giving the keynote address recently at an appreciation dinner for immigration and customs officers as well as other airport support staff, hosted by the Jamaica Tourist Board and the Tourism Enhancement Fund at the Half Moon Rock Resort Convention Centre.
He underscored that the success the sector was enjoying would not have been achieved without the commitment of industry workers like these, who make visitors feel welcome.
While 86 percent of visitors to the island come from North America, Minister McNeill emphasised the importance of diversifying tourism markets. In that regard, he pointed to increased air travel from non-traditional markets. Montego Bay, he noted, would be seeing an increase in visitors from Europe, in particular Scandinavia, pointing to a recent inaugural flight from that region into the northcoast resort city.
“As we boost our marketing of destination Jamaica the Ministry along with all our industry partners are making every effort through our policies and programmes to ensure that Jamaica remains attractive to both investors and visitors,” said Minister McNeill.
He cited as a prime example of the initiatives, a partnership with the Ministry of National Security to facilitate ease of travel for our nationals and visitors passing through the international airports in Montego Bay and Kingston.
“This venture has been very successful as the ease with which persons pass through both airports has improved significantly,” he noted. As a result the Sangster International Airport was recognized recently for improvements at the facility and received the first place award in passenger processing from the Airports Council International.
However, he emphasised that there were still some challenges and more to be done, “and we are moving to address these in order to further enhance the travel experience at our airports for both Jamaicans and our visitors alike.”
Minister McNeill said recent increases in airlift had generated an urgent need to keep increasing room stock. “This year alone, we have seen almost $20 billion worth of investment, including several acquisitions and upgrading of properties, which has brought 840 rooms on stream. This has also brought new brands like Sensatori, Melia, Royalton, Hyatt and Marriott to the Jamaican hospitality family, further contributing to the diverse character of our destination,” he added.
These brands have given additional presence in the marketplace, increased marketing muscle and, most importantly, create some 1,947 new jobs for Jamaicans, he said.