15% increase in visitor arrivals to Jamaica targeted for January to April 2007

KINGSTON, Jamaica – With the winter tourism season now officially underway, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, Entertainment and Culture, Aloun Ndombet Assamba, has said that a target of 15 per cent increase in visitor arrivals for the period January to April has been set, with 10 per cent of the figure being stopover visitors.

“We have been working hard all year to ensure that we are ready to accommodate this expected surplus,” she said today (December 15), in her message for the start of the winter tourist season.

“The buoyancy of the past season, and indeed calendar year 2006 have exceeded our expectations. We are therefore confronted with the wonderful challenge of how to grow the tourism product even more this year,” she added.

According to Minister Assamba, the boost in revenues to the sector was perhaps the most important recompense for specialised marketing initiatives undertaken throughout 2006.

“In the period January-October 2006, we registered a whopping 24 per cent over the same period last year to stand at US$2 billion. Measured in hard currency, it represents a real boost to the local economy.and with our active policy of inclusiveness, it means that we are seeing more Jamaicans earning more money from tourism this year than we have ever done before.

With the significant increases in room stock and airlift last season, we expect this trend to continue,” she said.

The calendar year 2005, according to the Tourism Minister, was the best ever in the history of the trade, with net tourist arrivals of more than 3 million and according to current statistics, this year could be even better.

“2006 [is] running significantly ahead of projections. The final numbers are not yet in, but we are projecting that at the end of November, we would have cleared 2.69 million visitor arrivals, well on our way to becoming the number one Caribbean destination by this indicator. It is still too early to confirm, but if the trends continue, we could clear the 3 million mark by year end,” Mrs. Assamba informed.

She stated that the Ministry had been working on a slew of initiatives that were aimed at ensuring that Jamaica was ready to accommodate the visitors.

“This includes the successful development of the Bed and Breakfast Homestay programme, already yielding more than 500 additional rooms. Today, the Bahia Principe project bears fruit with the soft opening of the property, yielding 734 rooms. By the end of 2007 we would have added a further 466 rooms to increase the stock by 1,200. This is part of the overall plan to boost the inventory by a minimum of 12,000 by the end of 2010,” she added.

Minister Assamba lauded continued efforts by Jamaica’s tourism partners and agencies, stating Jamaica’s attractiveness was being honed by their sterling efforts.

“More than 40 per cent of our visitors have been here before. This speaks volumes about the quality of our product, and I must pay tribute to Chairman Audrey Marks; Acting Executive Director, Barry Payne and the entire TPDCo team for aggressively guarding standards in the industry, while creating productive partnerships on the ground with communities, and private interests, both large and small. TPDCo turned 10 years old this year, and we celebrate the value of their contribution,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Assamba stressed that Jamaica did not become the world’s number one cruise shipping destination by fluke.

“We did not land a whole hamper of world-leading awards from various sources ‘just so’. This is a tribute to the faithful execution of visionary policies in the Master Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development, the constantly improving state of the product, the world class marketing efforts of the Jamaica Tourist Board, supported by agencies in North America, the UK and Asia, and the activation of the Tourism Enhancement Fund to give wings to cultural events and projects, infrastructural development, and beautification,” she said.

In addition to the ICC Cricket World Cup (CWC) next year, Mrs. Assamba said 2007 would bring an abundance of opportunities for many Jamaicans.

“The ICC Cricket World Cup, while quite significant, will be only one of many events we will host next year. We kick off as early as January 2 with the observance of the bicentenary of the abolition of the trade in enslaved Africans.

There is the annual Air Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival in January, and later in the year there will be conferences, bringing a range of special interest groups from archaeologists to aestheticians,” said the Tourism Minister.

“There must be something you can do to benefit from at least one of these opportunities – just allow your entrepreneurial spirit and natural creativity to give you the impetus. If you need help in fine tuning these ideas, that is what the Jamaica Business Development Centre is for.

Call them and get moving,” she charged.
Mrs. Assamba said Jamaica was well on the way to becoming a truly first class destination, and the start of the winter season provided yet another opportunity to be a part of this revolution.

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