Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, says Kingston has begun to record improvement in visitor arrivals, following a fall-out resulting from the West Kingston unrest in May.
This comes as welcomed news for the capital city’s tourism product, which Mr. Bartlett, last month, said was dented by the unrest, losing significant business in its aftermath. He pointed out then that occupancies at a number of hotels were weak, declining by as much as 50 per cent.
The unrest had also resulted in negative international media publicity for Jamaica, as well as a projected US$300 million fall-out in earnings from tourism, which he said the country could potentially lose, if the damage was not addressed.
Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett (right), and former Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Edward Seaga, view an exhibit on display at Devon House, Hope Road, in St. Andrew, during the re-opening of the newly refurbished historic landmark on July 26.
Consequently, the Minister spearheaded a major US$10 million marketing and promotional blitz, targeting mainly the traditional North American markets of the United States and Canada, and the United Kingdom.
Speaking at the official re-opening of the newly renovated Devon House, Hope Road, in St. Andrew, on July 26, Mr. Bartlett cited the positive turn in Kingston’s fortunes in relation to visitor arrivals.
“Following overall arrivals that had increased by some 7.3 per cent between January and April this year, there was much consternation as arrivals to Kingston suffered substantial declines of between 17 and 18 per cent in May and June, respectively. I am happy to announce that Kingston’s arrivals have been coming back, and we have seen a gradual reduction in the rate of fallout in arrivals. Montego Bay continues to increase by five to six per cent,” the Minister said.
Mr. Bartlett pointed out that the fallout in tourist arrivals from the event of the past two months have been contained. “We have worked with our industry partners to put these events in the context of a destination which, throughout this period (of unrest), remained both safe and attractive to our visitors,” he added.
Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett (right), shares a light moment with Chairman, Devon House Development Company Limited, the Most Hon. Carla Seaga, during the re-opening of the newly refurbished Devon House, on Hope Road, in St. Andrew, on July 26.
The historic Devon House mansion, which is a pivotal part of Jamaica’s heritage tourism product, was re-opened after undergoing major renovation over the last two years. The work, which entailed interior and exterior infrastructural works and landscaping, was funded from a $102 million allocation from the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF).
Describing the re-opening as “timely,” Mr. Bartlett said the occasion was one that must be embraced within the context of “renewed calls for a new dawn for our city”.
“The work at Devon House must be seen in the wider context of repositioning heritage tourism and the Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMA), as lynch pins for the island’s tourism,” he said.
Mr. Bartlett argued that the two-month state of emergency and the fall-out in tourist arrivals have, again, brought into sharp focus the need to re-examine areas of Jamaica’s competitive advantage, and accelerate efforts to maximise these for the country’s benefit.