Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill, says the tourism industry fared well throughout the year, recording increases in stopover arrivals, despite the many challenges encountered.
"Our sector is doing well…our stopover arrivals remain positive, and the figures have been holding. Between January and November of this year, we have recorded a 2.4 per cent increase over the same period last year,” he said.
He was speaking on December 5 at the 42nd Annual General Meeting and Luncheon of the Jamaica Rent-A-Car Association, held at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in St. Andrew.
The Minister said achievement of this feat in spite of challenges such as the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy on the east coast of the United States (US), and the US elections “really speaks well of the strength of what is Brand Jamaica”.
He informed that 1,651,195 visitors “graced our shores,” during the 11-month period, which represents a 38,596 increase over the 1,612,599 visitors recorded for the same period last year. He noted that the 100,000 barrier for arrivals in September in Jamaica was also broken, with a six per cent increase in arrivals for the month, over last year.
“Our cruise arrivals for January to October also showed an increase of 11.2 per cent over last year with 1,073,794 cruise passengers recorded for the period over the 848,237 recorded for the same period last year,” he said.
In the meantime, Dr. McNeillinformed that the Government has been working to shore up the country’s airlift arrangements in its traditional markets and has been making “excellent progress in our efforts at entering new frontiers,” as well.
He cited new arrangements, where, starting January 1, 2013, Transaero Airlines, through Biblio Globus tour operators, will begin nonstop services from Moscow to Montego Bay using a Boeing 777 with 300 seats.
“We are very optimistic about the Russian market as we believe it will provide significant returns, as the minimum stay by visitors from that market is 10 nights, which is twice the average stay of visitors from traditional markets such as the US,” he said.
The Minister further informed that the Government has confirmed service out of the Czech Republic for this winter period, with Meir’s Velt Reisen slated to operate a charter from Prague, starting December 28. The flight is to be shared with Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, with 100 seats designated for Jamaica and will have 10 rotations, the Minister noted.
“In addition we will have non-stop service out of Paris, France, which will be operated by Look Voyages, providing 350 seats. This flight was previously shared with the Dominican Republic, however it is now a direct flight to Jamaica and we will benefit from the full complement of 350 seats,” he said.
“Another frontier is Scandinavia, which includes the countries of Sweden, Denmark and Finland. Following discussions with TUI (Travel) they have confirmed flights out of Scandinavia for winter 2013 to 2014, from Sweden to Montego Bay using their new Dream-liner 787, as well as Thomas Cook, which will also offer services with an Airbus 330,” he informed
He noted that these new arrangements signal that the “European market has opened up tremendously” for this winter season and beyond, contending that “it’s now for us to capitalise on it by providing the products and services visitors from these regions are looking for.”
Dr. McNeill pointed out that there is also focus on markets in Latin America, noting that following discussions, Copa Airlines will be doubling its services from four to eight flights a week starting this winter. “What we are doing is using Panama as a hub into Central America and opening this market to Jamaica,” he said.
The Tourism Minister stated that with the Government having secured these airlifts, industry players must now work to ensure that the visitor experience and the advertising promise all coincide.
“We need to ensure that the product standards can match the expectations of the international traveller,” he said.