Jamaica is seeking to tap into China’s burgeoning travel market to increase arrivals to the island and boost tourism earnings.
China is currently regarded as the biggest and fastest growing source market for tourism, with the country’s travellers spending a record US$102 billion on international tourism in 2012.
Tourism and Entertainment Minister, Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill, in his 2013/14 Sectoral Debate presentation in Parliament on Tuesday, July 2, said China’s expenditure on travel last year represented 10 per cent of total global expenditure, and has seen China surpassing the United States (US) as the biggest global tourism source market.
Stating that “we have to pursue” this “critical market”, he said that the Government is looking at relaxing visa entry requirements for nationals from the Asian country.
While noting that Jamaica already enjoys Approved Destination Status with China, Dr. McNeill explained that visas to the island are available only in the country’s capital, Beijing, which he said, is an “inconvenience for citizens of such a large country”.
“We have to make it easier for them to enter Jamaica. We have already started discussions with the Minister of National Security and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, to explore ways in which we can streamline group travel to Jamaica,” he informed.
One option, he indicated, is to try to exempt the holders of third country visas, (e.g. Canada, United States or Schengen), pointing out that many Central American nations already do this.
In addition, he advised that the Jamaica Tourist Board(JTB) and Jamaica Vacations (JamVac) are looking at the airlift opportunities “to see how we can increase travel from this important market.”
Visa entry requirements have already been relaxed for a number of new and emerging markets. These include Latin American and Eastern European countries, for which, he said, the requirements have been “indefinitely waived”.
Among the Eastern European countries being accommodated in this regard are Russia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and Ukraine.
Dr. McNeill said the government is targeting countries “that have the potential to produce good numbers (of visitor arrivals) to Jamaica.”
“Relaxation of visa regulations has clearly enabled us to tap into veins of latent desire for travel to Jamaica. We ignore emerging markets like (these) at our peril, and developing airlift and easing visa restrictions go hand in hand if we are to grow these markets,” he underscored.
Dr. McNeill delivered his presentation under the theme: ‘A Sector for the People: Making Tourism for Us All’.
Contact: Douglas McIntosh