Minister of State for Industry and Tourism, Dr. Wykeham McNeill has said that the annual Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues festival has a tremendous impact on the hospitality industry, as it helps to boost visitor arrivals.He told JIS News, that 22,600 persons attended last year’s festival and said he was optimistic that this year’s event would be “bigger and better.”
A survey conducted by the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) indicated that 25 per cent tourists, who attended the 2005 show, were visiting Jamaica for the first time while 75 per cent were repeat visitors. The survey found that 43 per cent of visitors came to Jamaica specifically for the festival.In addition, 55 per cent of non-Jamaicans attending the festival were from the United States (US), 22 per cent were from the United Kingdom, 13 per cent from Canada and 10 per cent from other countries.
Speaking of present hotel bookings, Dr. McNeill informed that hotels in Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Negril were fully booked with the majority of the hotels in Ocho Rios and Negril offering shuttle services to the festival.He pointed out that the festival, which occurs at the end of January during the winter tourist season, was scheduled at a time when there was “a softening” of activities in the sector.
“Over the years it (the festival) has really grown in stature, gained a lot of credence and is now something that people look forward to, both foreigners and locals,” the Minister told JIS News, adding that the festival “gives the visitors the opportunity to interface and interact with Jamaicans”.The State Minister affirmed that one of Jamaica’s distinct advantages was that “airlifting to the island is certainly more diverse and better than any other Caribbean country”.
He pointed out further that, “there is no major US carrier that does not fly into Jamaica and when you add to this Air Jamaica flying to so many destinations”, the opportunity is created for a variety of flights into Jamaica, allowing tourists from around the world to visit.
With respect to the winter tourist season, preliminary figures indicate that stopover visitors increased by 21 per cent for December 2005 over the same period last year. The Minister noted that the Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival would contribute significantly to the January figures.