JIS News

Fellow Jamaicans – I bring you warmest greetings on the occasion of the start of the 2006-2007 winter tourist season.
As always, it is a new beginning rife with not just promises, but real possibilities. I have deliberately refrained from calling it a ‘fresh start’, because the buoyancy of the past season, and indeed calendar year 2006 have exceeded our expectations. We are therefore confronted with the wonderful challenge of how to grow the tourism product even more this year.
By now you would be aware that we ended calendar year 2005 as our best ever in the history of the trade, with 2006 running significantly ahead of projections. The final numbers are not yet in, but we are conservatively projecting that at the end of November we would have cleared 2.69 million visitor arrivals, well on our way to becoming the number one Caribbean destination by this indicator. It is still too early to confirm, but if the trends continue, we could clear the 3m mark by year end.
Perhaps even more importantly is the boost in revenues to the sector. In the period January-October 2006, we registered a whopping 24% over the same period last year to stand at 2-billion US$. Measured in hard currency, it represents a real boost to the local economy. and with our active policy of inclusiveness it means that we are seeing more Jamaicans earning more money from tourism this year than we have ever done before. With the significant increases in room stock and airlift last season, we expect this trend to continue.
As we look forward to the winter season, we are targeting a 15% increase in visitor arrivals for the period January-April 2007, with 10% of this being stopover visitors. We have been working hard all year to ensure that we are ready to accommodate this expected surplus. This includes the successful development of the bed and breakfast homestay programme, already yielding more than 500 additional rooms. Today, the Bahia Principe project bears fruit with the soft opening of the property – yielding 734 rooms. By the end of 2007 we would have added a further 466 rooms to increase the stock by 1,200. This is part of the overall plan to boost the inventory by a minimum of 12,000 by the end of 2010.
I have always been very proud of Jamaica’s record of repeat visitors. More than 40% of our visitors have been here before. This speaks volumes about the quality of our product, and I must pay tribute to chairman Audrey Marks, Acting Executive Director, Barry Payne and the entire TPDCO team for aggressively guarding standards in the industry while creating productive partnerships on the ground with communities, and private interests both large and small. TPDCO turned 10 years old this year, and we celebrate the value of their contribution.
Jamaica did not become the world’s number one cruise shipping destination by fluke. We did not land a whole hamper of world-leading awards from various sources ‘just so’. This is a tribute to the faithful execution of visionary policies in the master plan for sustainable tourism development, the constantly improving state of the product, the world class marketing efforts of the Jamaica Tourist Board supported by agencies in North America, the UK and Asia, and the activation of the tourism enhancement fund to give wings to cultural events and projects, infrastructural development, and beautification.
2007 will bring an abundance of opportunities. It is my hope that every Jamaican of working age will explore ways of linking into the hospitality industry as we continue to build our national team of host Jamaica. The ICC cricket world cup, while quite significant will be only one of many events we will host next year. We kick off as early as January 3 with the national observance of the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Trade in Enslaved Africans in a cultural rally in Emancipation Park. There is the annual Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues in January, and later in the year there will be conferences bringing a range of special interest groups from archaeologists to aestheticians.
There must be something you can do to benefit from at least one of these opportunities – just allow your entrepreneurial spirit and natural creativity to give you the impetus. If you need help in fine tuning these ideas, that is what the Jamaica Business Development Centre is for. Call them and get moving.
Jamaica is well on the way to becoming a truly first class destination, and today’s start of the winter season provides yet another opportunity to be a part of this revolution. Join us, and together, let us make it work!
Walk good, and one love.