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Remarks by Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill at the Tourism Awareness Week Appreciation Day at the Sangster International Airport, Saturday, December 15, 2012


Ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

Tourism Awareness Week, which started on December 9th and runs through to today, December 15th , is being observed under the theme: “Tourism For All, All For Tourism.” This simply means that while we seek to ensure that every Jamaican can benefit from tourism, similarly every Jamaican has a role to play in supporting this vital sector which is the life-blood of our economy.

This year’s observation of Tourism Awareness Week is even more significant as we celebrate our 50th anniversary of Independence and recall the tremendously eventful and exciting year we have had as a sector and indeed as a nation.

I am sure we can all recall those moments:
• When Prince Harry visited Jamaica 
• The outstanding performances of the Jamaican team at the London Olympics
• Our Prime Minister being recognized in TIME Magazine’s 2012 list of 100 most influential people in the world
• Jamaica hosted the Caribbean Tourism Summit with the region’s and the world’s leading tourism players, the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, UNWTO, and the World Travel and Tourism Council, WTTC in attendance.
• Jamaica’s influence on the world tourism stage was further extended as we were elected first Vice-Chairman of the World Tourism Organization Executive Council (EC) for 2013 at their meeting in Campeche, Mexico.
• And of course our independence celebrations were unforgettable, including the JDF Military Tattoo.

As all this took place we had more and more Jamaicans from the Diaspora visiting their homeland to share in the celebrations, spend time with their family and friends and of course catch up on the sights and sounds of Jamaica.

Many of you here would have been the first ones to welcome them home and even the last to bid them farewell as they departed the island; and this is why you play such a critical role in our tourism sector.
As we celebrate Tourism Awareness Week, as a Ministry we do so to draw the attention of the nation as a whole to the importance of tourism to our economy. More specifically we do so to focus the attention on the persons who have made and continue to make this industry what it is today. 

I have said it time and again; Jamaica has an innate appeal that has captured the attention of the world. This appeal is without a doubt focused on the people of Jamaica.  It is all of us together that make this island destination such a sought after vacation spot for millions around the world.

Last year we welcomed over 1.9 million stopover visitors to our shores.

This year so far, despite the many challenges throughout the year, including the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast of the United States, and the US elections, Jamaica’s visitor arrivals continue to increase. Preliminary figures indicate that between January and November, Jamaica welcomed approximately 1.7 million stopover visitors; an increase of 2.4 percent over the same period last year; of that number, 1,338,664 passengers passed through this airport.

Up to October, Jamaica earned approximately 1.7 billion US dollars, which represents a 3.2 percent increase over the 1.6 billion we earned for the same period last year.

The observation of Tourism Awareness Week also coincides with the start of the Winter Tourist Season, which officially begins today, December 15 and we have exciting news to share for the season.

We’ve made great strides in diversifying our markets by securing new airlift for Jamaica as we target new markets. 

During this Winter Tourist Season, Montego Bay in particular will see an increase in visitors from Eastern Europe, in particular Russia and the Czech Republic.  An inaugural non-stop flight from Moscow, Russia, will start on January 1st, 2013 into Montego Bay. We have also confirmed flight service from the Czech Republic starting December 28. In addition, there will also be non-stop service from Paris, France.

Our efforts in Latin America are reaping good rewards as COPA Airlines have confirmed that they will be doubling their services from 4 flights weekly to 8 flights per week starting this winter.
In fact, approximately 1.1 million seats have already been secured for this winter tourist season. This will allow us to bring in more visitors for the season including from our traditional markets of the U.S., Canada, UK, and Europe. 

Ladies and gentlemen, as Jamaicans we all have much to be proud of; however as the faces of tourism I want to personally thank each and every one of you for your commitment, dedication and genuine love for this sector. Thank you to our red cap porters, the immigration and customs officers, the MBJ Airports management personnel, especially the customer service team, the management and staff of all our airline partners, the airlift handlers, our ground transportation team, the Ministry of Health personnel stationed here; the staff of the concessionaires, the security personnel, both the JCF and the private companies and the auxiliary and support personnel here at the Sangster International Airport.

Yours are the faces that have helped to create the memories our visitors treasure.

Your contribution to the sector in delivering excellent service allows us to continue to achieve the level of success and international recognition that Jamaica consistently receives.  

Tourism truly is a sector that can drive our economy and contribute to the wellbeing and prosperity of every Jamaican citizen.  I encourage all Jamaicans to look around them and take note of just how much tourism has touched their lives in one way or another and let us be thankful for the vast and natural bounty we have been blessed with.

I encourage you to keep up the good work in being the “Ambassadors of First Impressions” that you are; and to strive to exceed the high standards that you have already set for this airport.