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MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica, September 22, 2014: The upward trend in tourism which saw the two million-barrier in arrivals broken last year has continued into 2014 and so far there is a 2.6 percent increase over the corresponding period of 2013.
Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, the Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill, disclosed Sunday night (September 21) that “we continue to grow out of all our source markets.”
Minister McNeill was delivering the keynote address at the opening of Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX) 2014 at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, St. James. He said, “We expect to maintain our level of stopovers this year of more than two million.”
He also disclosed that for the summer, July saw a record 221,000 stopover visitors, “the most that the country has ever recorded in a single month.”
JAPEX is the premier marketing event for the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) and its partners, and over the next two days some 250 members and allied members will be interfacing with more than 300 international buyers to sell the varied Jamaican tourism products.
Against that background, Minister McNeill said the continued growth in arrivals was due largely to the work of those attending JAPEX.
He was particularly pleased that some challenges that resulted in negative growth out the United Kingdom (UK) for four consecutive years had been ironed out and at the end of August there was a seven percent positive growth.
Airlift to Jamaica also continues to improve with Southwest Airlines opening up 48 US states to Jamaica.
Investment in hotels by both local and international investors between 2012 and 2014 now stands at approximately J$54 billion from Sagicor, RIU, Blue Diamond, Melia, Palace Resorts, Hyatt and Karisma. This has also brought new brands to the island’s product offering like Sensatori, Melia, Royalton, and Marriott.
Additionally, said Minister McNeill, several properties which have been undergoing renovation work will soon be brought back on stream such as the former Ritz Carlton which should reopen in November as the Hyatt Ziva.
He said next year summer, Jamaica will be in the market with “90 Days of Summer” capitalising on the country’s well respected creative flair and love for entertainment to provide visitors with a wide array of cultural and entertainment experiences from mid-May to mid-August each year.
The “90 Days of Summer” will package established events, like the Calabash Literary Arts Festival, Kingston on the Edge, the Ocho Rios Jazz Festival, Reggae Sumfest, Dream Weekend, the National Dance Theatre Company’s season, Caribbean Fashion Week (CFW), StyleWeek, our Reggae Film Festival and more.
“We are also leveraging the value of reggae music in a promotional initiative dubbed Reggae Month: it’s Kingston for February. The month-long celebration offers a wide array of events, including concerts, festivals, seminars and award shows that celebrate the many dimensions of Jamaican popular music,” said Minister McNeill.
JHTA President, Nicola Madden-Greig, also painted a rosy picture of the tourist industry and agreed that “the outlook for 2014 looks promising.” She said the growth this year was achieved in “a very tough competitive environment.”
Mrs. Madden-Greig said, “We recognize that for us to continue to not only do well but to truly thrive, having a positive view to change and innovation is critical to us maintaining a competitive advantage.”
She noted that innovations were coming with several attractions, adding, “and with the opening of the North-South Highway the resort areas of the South Coast, Port Antonio, Kingston and the majestic Blue Mountains are in easier access to visitors seeking the diversity that Jamaica has to offer.”
According to the JHTA President, “Jamaica is not someplace you visit just once, Jamaica is a beautiful chameleon that promises unexpected joy again and again.”
Minister of State in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams, lauded the partnership between her ministry, through JAMPRO and the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment, the JHTA, the Jamaica Manufacturers Association (JMA) and Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) for coming together in staging a “Business to Business Linkage Event” at JAPEX 2014.
She attributed this to the concept of “Joined up government and partnership in Jamaica,” adding, “Together, we can make it better and as long as we work together we will accomplish great things in Jamaica.”