JIS News

Edmund Bartlett took up his appointment as Minister of Tourism on September, and he eagerly took to the task of promoting, developing and enhancing the country’s tourism product.
The first order of business was a mini trade show at the Half Moon Hotel in Rose Hall, St. James in September, where 80 travel agents from 10 gateways in the United States participated and got a taste of what Jamaica has to offer. The event, organized by the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), featured a number of booths showcasing vacation packages from hotel properties across the country, while JTB marketing representatives met with the travel agents, to guide them in selling Jamaica more effectively to their clients.
Later in the month, the Minister announced that a hospitality training school will be built in Montego Bay, St. James by 2009, as a means of further boosting the tourism industry in Jamaica.
Minister Bartlett explained that while the school will function as a hotel, it is intended to increase and prepare skilled personnel for all aspects of the industry.
The Minister also announced the establishment of a craft design school in western Jamaica to enhance the authenticity of local craft production as well as show the high standard of the creative genius of the Jamaican people.
In October, the Tourism Minister unveiled a three-year strategy for sustainable tourism development in Jamaica, which would entail aggressive marketing, investment and product development strategies to increase visitor arrivals and revenue to the industry.The plan, he noted, will focus on improved targets in stopover and cruise passenger arrivals and a near 50 per cent increase in revenue from cruise passengers by the year 2010.
According to Minister Bartlett, the strategy will be based on the M-E-C-C-A principle which entails: Embracing an aggressive strategic marketing initiative to take the fullest advantage of the country’s comparative and competitive edge; Environmentally sensitive planning to avoid degradation of the natural product; Cultural and heritage-based attractions; Community-based development; and an all-inclusive concept for income generation and wealth sharing.
Early November, the Minister launched a $40 million six-week campaign dubbed ‘Spruce Up Jamaica – Nice Up Yuhself’, designed to clean and beautify resort areas across the island in time for the winter tourist season which began December 15.
The project is a collaborative effort involving the government, private sector stakeholders and communities, and includes the pruning of overgrown trees and shrubs, painting of sidewalks and verges, and removing debris and other objects from the resort areas and their surroundings.
By mid-November, Minister Bartlett left for Spain to hold investment talks with potential investors in the tourism industry. The visit to Spain followed a strong showing by Jamaica at the four-day World Travel Market held in London from November 12 to 15.
Minister Bartlett told JIS News that his visit to Spain was aimed at bringing in new investors to build more rooms and develop attractions. Spanish hotel chains are already building some 13 new hotels in Jamaica at an estimated value of US$600 million.
Also in November, the Ministry reported a boost in tourist arrivals to the island, with figures indicating a 4.8 per cent increase in visitor arrivals for September over the same period last year.Preliminary figures for October showed an 8.5 per cent increase over last year’s figures.
In the meantime, the island’s first Mobile Command and Control Police Unit, complete with state-of-the-art surveillance equipment, was commissioned into service in Montego Bay in November.
The vehicle, which is the first of five for the island’s resort areas, was acquired at a cost of approximately $23.5 million through the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), and is a project of the Tourism Ministry in collaboration with the Ministry of National Security. By late November, Cabinet awarded contracts to a number of consultants to provide planning services for the upgrading and improvement of the island’s three major resort towns.
The upgrade programme, which will be carried out in Negril, Montego Bay on Gloucester Avenue, and Ocho Rios, will entail the preparation of plans for the creation of resort towns with aesthetic appeal, unique features and infrastructure, and conveniences to accommodate visitors and locals.
Contracts for the resort towns of Negril and Ocho Rios have been awarded to Harold Morrison/Robert Woodstock and Sasaki Associates in the sums of US$1,059,435 and US$1,065,970 respectively, while the contract for Montego Bay was awarded to P.A Government Services Incorporated in the sum of US$429,038.00.
A contract was also signed between the TEF and JN Small Business Loans Limited for the TEF Small Property Hurricane Dean Loan Programme, which will see some $60 million available for improving and reviving the small properties within the hotel sector at a low of 2.5 per cent interest.
“The programme calls for an initial disbursement of $24 million, a second disbursement of $12 million, a third disbursement of $12 million and a final disbursement of $12 million. All of this will be over a short period of time . so that we can start making loans available to the small business sector immediately,” Mr. Bartlett noted.
With respect to visitor arrival figures, the Tourism Minister has high expectations for the New Year, noting that 2008 is going to be a “very powerful year” in terms of visitor arrivals, as advanced bookings from tour operators are “extremely positive.”
Minister Bartlett expressed that “reports coming out of New York and the whole North-eastern seaboard (of the United States), are all good.”
He said that the country is going for major growth, and he will “leave no stone unturned in seeking to find the attractions, the investment, more room accommodations and cruise developments, because we’re determined to bring more heads to beds, to convert lookers into bookers and to bring more feet to the streets of Jamaica.”

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