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Kingston, Jamaica: February 26, 2014 – Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, the Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill, today (February 26) announced that Cabinet has approved the conditional waiving of visa requirements for nationals of the People’s Republic of China travelling to Jamaica for tourism purposes for periods of 30 days or less.
This continuing effort to diversify and develop new markets for the local hospitality industry will give Jamaica access to the largest spender in international tourism globally. In 2013, Forbes magazine reported China as having 72.5 million outbound trips for the first three quarters of 2013, representing a year on year increase of 18%. China’s expenditure on travel abroad reached US$ 102 billion in 2012, a 40% jump from 2011, making it the number one tourism source market in the world in terms of spending.
Speaking at a post Cabinet press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister, Minister McNeill said, “For many years we have recognized China’s potential for growth as a tourism source market for Jamaica, but have also remained cognizant of the difficulties entailed in developing this important market.”
“Up to now, it has been difficult to achieve substantial growth in Chinese arrivals, as many Chinese citizens have had to travel great distances simply to obtain a visa from the Jamaican Embassy in Beijing,” the tourism minister added. The conditional waiver of visa requirements will ease these difficulties while harnessing the market potential.
Last year, Jamaica attracted 2,420 Chinese tourists, an increase of 15.1% over the previous year; while 2012 showed an increase of 24% over the previous year. Minister McNeill noted that although the numbers are small the market has the potential for significant growth.
Commenting on Jamaica’s longstanding friendship with China, the tourism minister said, “Our relationship with China has been very strong over the years and whereas we are looking at further developing and growing tourism trade with China, I believe our strong business connections will cause the strengthening of both sectors.”
The visa waiver announcement for Chinese nationals comes ahead of Minister McNeill and Director of Tourism, John Lynch, attending the Shanghai Trade Show in April to help strengthen the marketing efforts of the Jamaica Tourist Board and continue discussions on developing airlift arrangements from the region.
The new visa regime will come into effect in a few weeks time, when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of National Security and its agencies, institute the preliminary processes to effect a smooth implementation.
Previously Jamaica relaxed visa requirements for nationals of Columbia, Panama, Venezuela, Russia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland Slovakia and the Ukraine. This strategy has borne fruit and produced in many cases double-digit performances in relatively short periods of time and demand for travel that has brought new airlift from those markets.