- For the period January through October Jamaica welcomed over 1.7 million stopover visitors, a 3.1 percent increase over the same period last year.
- What’s even more significant, is that when we combine our stopover and cruise arrivals we expect to end the year with some 3.5 million visitors overall, which marks a significant achievement for a country with a population of only 2.7 million people.
- Positive interaction with our visitors produces a multiplier effect as they will likely have good things to say to friends and family on returning home and thus spread the good word about Jamaica. Remember, word-of-mouth still remains one of the best ways of sharing information and each of you can add real value to our formal marketing efforts by being true tourism ambassadors.
My fellow Jamaicans …
With the hard work done throughout the year by all the players in the sector, we are well prepared for a successful winter tourist season.
As you know tourism is one of our leading industries in its contribution to employment and foreign exchange earnings.
Despite, many challenges, we have managed to perform very well.
Our strong performance could not have been achieved without the commitment of our industry workers and our valued travel partners.
I thank all of you for the tremendous effort that you have made.
I wish to place on record my gratitude to the members of the resort boards; to our dedicated hotel workers and all our private sector partners – the hoteliers, the attractions, the ground transportation operators, the airport and immigration workers, craft vendors, and all the workers in all sections of our industry.
I also commend our dedicated team at the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment along with all its agencies for their devotion to duty.
Our achievements so far this year augur well for a very good winter season.
For the period January through October Jamaica welcomed over 1.7 million stopover visitors, a 3.1 percent increase over the same period last year. Earnings from stopover arrivals for the same period grew even more and stood at 1.7 billion US dollars, reflecting an increase of 5.1 percent over 2013.
For the month of November, preliminary estimates point to a 6 percent increase. And if we continue on a similar growth path this month, we can expect another record-breaking year, as we will again surpass two million stopover visitors in a year.
What’s even more significant, is that when we combine our stopover and cruise arrivals we expect to end the year with some 3.5 million visitors overall, which marks a significant achievement for a country with a population of only 2.7 million people.
We have undertaken a strategic marketing programme aimed at fuelling arrivals. We have co-op marketing plans in place with tour operators in all markets. We also executed TV advertising in the United States from late October to mid November and this was also done nationally on cable, as well as in spot markets of New York, Chicago and Philadelphia.
In addition to advertising, we have embarked on a series of trade shows with travel agents which started on October 6 and will continue through to February 2015. This will cover the entire US in an effort to ensure that we fill the more than 60,000 additional airline seats secured out of that market for the winter tourist season. A total of over 1.2 million air seats are proposed for the period, which represents an increase of over 15 percent.
Apart from the number of advance bookings for the winter season, we are also encouraged by the excitement that “brand Jamaica” still generates in both our traditional and non-traditional markets. This is a great testimony to the strong partnerships which ensure our product is first class and our service quality is world renowned.
We remain confident in the marketing and positioning of Jamaica. My interaction with industry leaders both at home and abroad during last month’s World Travel Market in London, and the China International Travel Mart event in Beijing, makes it clear that interest in Jamaica remains high.
Thousands of Jamaicans enjoy the benefits of jobs in the industry and as tourism continues to do well, more jobs are created. And remember, this does not apply only to the workers employed directly in our hotels, attractions, or in our craft markets, but also taxi and bus drivers, and persons at our air and seaports.
In addition to this, the industry has linkages with various other sectors of the economy such as agriculture, manufacturing, entertainment, and transportation. And there are encouraging signs which point to the significant benefits that can be derived, if we strengthen these linkages.
We have been moving to do just that through the establishment of the Linkages Hub within the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment, which has achieved positive results.
The hub also facilitates the sharing of information between local suppliers and tourism interests on the types and quantities of goods and services required within the sector. Regular trade exhibitions and networking sessions are also arranged to facilitate the development of fruitful business relationships between tourism partners and players within other vital sectors.
Our potential for even more robust growth can also be seen in the tangible proof of recent major investments in the sector. This is estimated at some $35 billion. These investments are by iconic international brands such as Azul Sensatori, Hyatt, Marriott, Moon Palace and Royalton … and, happily, we have also seen continued investment by local players such as Sagicor and the Hendrickson family.
The Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara resorts in Montego Bay and the Moon Palace Jamaica Grande in Ocho Rios will both come back on-stream for the winter, and they are already projecting good occupancies.
Both properties are already generating employment, with over 1000 construction workers toiling around the clock to have the luxurious Hyatt resorts ready for a soft opening soon. An additional 600 permanent staff are already on the job and that figure will be doubled when the property is in full operation.
Similarly, The Moon Palace resort is set to open its doors in January 2015 and over 2000 construction workers are engaged in refurbishing the former Sunset Jamaica Grande property. In a bid to retain valuable members of the original workforce, the new operators of the 700 room hotel have kept some 500 employees on their payroll during their temporary closure. The hotel will eventually have 1200 permanent employees.
These new investors will join the ranks of our existing hotels which have set and maintain the highest international standards that help form the foundation of excellence which the sector has enjoyed for years.
The removal of restrictive visa requirements for visitors; introduction of new technology to improve the experience of passengers and boost efficiency at Customs and immigration now facilitate ease of travel for our nationals as well as visitors passing through our international airports.
I readily acknowledge that there is more work to be done to make the sector even more productive but we continue to work hard to overcome these challenges. The issue of harassment and the challenge of deepening the linkages to which I referred earlier; swifter implementation of projects to improve the infrastructure in our resort towns and communities are among my priorities for action.
I cannot over- emphasize the importance of tourism to our economy. When tourism does well, the effect is felt throughout the economy. I encourage you, whether you work directly or indirectly in the industry, to do whatever you can to help support and sustain Jamaica’s tourism. Many of us across the island, will come into contact with our visitors. I hope you will extend to them the warmth that is so natural to us as a people. Let us make them feel welcome.
Positive interaction with our visitors produces a multiplier effect as they will likely have good things to say to friends and family on returning home and thus spread the good word about Jamaica. Remember, word-of-mouth still remains one of the best ways of sharing information and each of you can add real value to our formal marketing efforts by being true tourism ambassadors.
Let us all commit to making this winter season even better than the last. Let us work together to ensure Jamaica’s reputation as a world class destination is reinforced. Afterall, given our unique culture, heritage; the beauty of our island and the warmth of our people, we can take pride in all that Jamaica has to offer.
Thank You and God bless you!