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OCHO RIOS, Jamaica, Monday, December 11, 2017: On the eve of the country welcoming four million visitors for the first time in its history, Minister of Tourism, Hon Edmund Bartlett has declared 2017 to be “a dream year for Jamaica.”
“We’ve annexed all sorts of new horizons and frontiers; we’re going to make four million visitors this year and we’re going to earn in the region of US$3 billion,” he told top producing travel agents from the USA, Canada and the United Kingdom at Moon Palace Jamaica, Ocho Rios, Saturday night. “It will be a truly historic moment for our tourism sector and I thank you for the role that you are playing in helping us to reach this important milestone and another record-breaking year in visitor arrivals," said Minister Bartlett.
The White Affair Gala recognized the top 50 travel agents who have booked visitors to Jamaica this year. Combined, they accounted for 130,000 rooms representing about US$39 million in business. They were treated over three days under the theme, “Fly Me To The Moon … Be Among The Stars.”
Minister Bartlett outlined to them a list of outstanding achievements by Jamaica and Jamaicans during 2017. Among them, the legendary Usain Bolt retiring from an active career as the world’s greatest athlete; the staging of a high-profiled US college basketball tournament at an indoor facility here (Montego Bay Convention Centre) for the first time, giving Jamaica widespread international coverage; the hosting of the first ever global tourism conference on job creation and inclusive growth; and Jamaica’s Davina Bennett placing as second runner-up in the Miss Universe contest.
In other tourism developments, the Tourism Minister said he was pleased that Canadian market had recovered from having “slipped badly” by 17 percent, to record an 8 percent growth. Also, “groups and conventions have taken off and we’re beginning to see something new and exciting in that area,” he said.
Meanwhile, the UK market is also showing growth and five of the top producing agents were among the awardees.
Minister Bartlett attributed Jamaica’s tourism success to strategic partnerships, adding, “Our year on year dynamic growth in arrivals is in large part due to the Jamaica Tourist Board’s excellent marketing performance and the diligent efforts of our travel partners, prime among them are you our travel agents.”
Underscoring “the invaluable role” many of them have played in sustaining Jamaica’s tourism industry, Minister Bartlett referenced the importance of technology in connecting people and enhancing experiences but stressed that tourism was all about the human touch and artificial intelligence would never replace the warmth of human intelligence.
Informing the travel agents and partners that “we need you,” Minister Bartlett assured them, “You are always going to be here, you are always going to be needed and you are always going to be at the centre of the whole tourism development irrespective of what happens.”
Lindsey Johnson of Tropics Travel Agency LLC emerged in first place this year among the top 50 leading booking agents. Joining her in the top ten were Donna Daniels (Fox Travel American Express), Michelle Wiseman (Toms Tours), Anthony Tucker (All Inclusive Outlet), Sharon Little (Wedding and Honeymoon Travel Group), Darlene Rhoden (The Travel Net Inc.), Marlene Johnson (MJ Travel Group), David Parker (All The way Travel), Kimberly Felix (Honeymoons Inc.), Mark Henngan (Dreamer’s Travel) and William “Bill” Munroe (Barrhead Travel).