64 Knutsford Boulevard, Kingston 5, Jamaica
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It is indeed a pleasure being here for the unveiling of yet another jewel in our tourism crown. The importance of tourism to our economy cannot be over-emphasized especially in light of the crucial role the sector must play in laying down a firm foundation for the sustainable development of our country.
Having accepted that the industry faces many challenges, we resolved to turn the challenges into opportunities and are proud to say that tourism continues to perform well, thanks to the unstinting support of our committed partners and an outstanding team.
The nature of tourism dictates that it be approached as a partnership and today’s opening of this property, Jewel Paradise Cove Beach Resort & Spa bears testimony to the very valuable partnerships that we have been forging.
An investment in our tourism product is an investment in our people as it provides employment, exposes our rich cultural heritage to a wider market and generates foreign exchange to support our economy.
Against that background, I am particularly elated at the growing trend of investment by both local and international investors in the tourism sector. In that regard, I must single out Sagicor and its CEO Mr. Richard Byles for the leading role they have been playing. In just a few short years, Sagicor has become a major player in the sustainable development of the hotel sector and I have no doubt that Richard has been a driving force in all this. Here is someone who does not only speak with conviction but acts accordingly in the best interest of his country.
Over the past 12 months, we have made steady inroads into new markets. This will gather momentum, going forward, as we exploit the advantages gained from recent increases in airlift deeper into Europe than ever before and increased lift from Latin America. These developments impose an urgency on the need to keep increasing our room stock and serve also to make Jamaica’s tourism sector increasingly attractive to investors – local, regional and from further afield.
Being here today for the opening of Jewel Paradise Cove Beach Resort & Spa bears testimony to that fact. It is the third jewel in the brand and is another in the several important investments that Sagicor has been making in tourism.
Only six months ago I had reason to comment that this company has become one of Jamaica’s most committed partners with its diversified investments. The occasion then was the ground-breaking for another brand, Marriott Courtyard in New Kingston, in which Sagicor is a major partner.
This and their other investments are proof that Jamaica still offers a welcoming climate for enterprising investors and that our confidence of a bright future for tourism is well founded.
Jewel Paradise Cove with 225 rooms, is already playing its part in wooing visitors to Jamaica. It’s been only a few weeks since your soft opening and the guest comments have been tremendous. I glanced at some of the reviews and must commend you on what guests have been saying.
I really could not resist the temptation to highlight a few. One guest posted: “Service at its best” and another said “The icing on the cake is the wonderful staff who made this a very special and unique place.”
And how about, “Can't wait to return!!”? or as another review says: “I have travelled all over the Caribbean for the last 20 years... from Mayan Rivera, Los Cabos, Mazatlan, Venezuela, Costa Rica and many more. I have to say though that Jewel Paradise Cove was THE best resort I have ever stayed at! What makes it so special is the staff ... their dedication to making you happy and every need met!”
These are the experiences and comments that will make visitors want to come back to this property and to Jamaica as their preferred vacation spot.
As Minister I want to commend the management and staff for an excellent start and implore you not to drop your standards but to always seek to be better today than you were yesterday.
We at the Ministry have undertaken several initiatives to ensure that the performance of the sector improves significantly as well. I am pleased to see Donavan Perkins here, who has graciously agreed to work with my ministry in chairing the Linkages Council that is driving the Linkages Hub that has been established within the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment. This crucial initiative has been undertaken to help to maximise our ability to retain foreign exchange earnings and stimulate growth in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors by boosting profits and producing jobs for Jamaicans.
As you know, my ministry has been working in partnership with the Ministry of National Security to make it easier for our nationals and visitors passing through our international airports and I am also pleased to tell you that the ease with which traffic passes through the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay and the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston has been improving. So, too, has been the number of visitors, which has been fueled by our efforts to ease visa restrictions and facilitate ease of travel.
We have already begun to see the results of our deliberate strategy of targeting new and emerging markets such as Russia and Latin America while strengthening our position in more traditional markets such as North America and Europe. New airlines are landing at our airports and others are increasing their seating capacity by using bigger aircraft. Against the background of these initiatives, I am happy to indicate that my ministry has started language training for industry workers. Russian has already started and Spanish will follow in a few months. The feedback has been extremely positive and classes are over-subscribed.
Of course North America continues to be our biggest market, Canadians are showing renewed interest in Jamaica as a preferred vacation destination and a substantial increase in airlift has been secured from that market for the 2013/2014 winter tourist season, which gets underway in another eight days.
We are also proving to be more attractive to cruise ships, as was evidenced a few days ago, when our cruise ports received seven ships in a single day. Fairly evenly divided between Montego Bay, Falmouth and Ocho Rios, an estimated 23,000 passengers and 9,000 crew members would have made a valuable infusion into the economies of those ports of call. This and the increases we are enjoying in airlift auger well for a robust season, extending through 2014.
Certainly bookings are pacing well ahead of what we had last year and provisional figures indicate that stopover arrivals have increased by 1.4 percent for the period January to November, over last year.
The needle is moving in the right direction, and we expect to remain in positive numbers for the remainder of the year.
Obviously, our marketing and promotional efforts are proving effective and there is every good reason to be optimistic that at year-end we will achieve another milestone of two million visitors.
In closing, I am pleased to join the Sagicor and Jewel family in celebrating the opening of this new hotel, which no doubt will be a fine addition to our outstanding tourism product range. I wish you success in the future as Jewel Resorts continues to grow from strength to strength.