Jamaica launches program to encourage more stop over visitors

JIS – The Jamaican leg of Freestay Caribbean, a concept to entice cruise ship passengers who visit the Caribbean to return for land-based vacations, is now underway, following its official launch on September 20, at the Hilton Kingston Hotel.

Under the program, cruise ship passengers will receive a souvenir coin upon disembarking, which will be redeemable for goods and services on their return to Jamaica to take up a land vacation. The visitors will receive incentives in the form of discounts, room upgrades and complimentary or discounted tours and meals.

Aloun Ndombet-Assamba, Minister of Industry and Tourism who did the official launch, noted that this initiative had great potential for increasing stopover arrivals, which would result in significantly higher foreign exchange earnings.

“For example, in 2004 cruise passengers totaled a little over one million persons. If even half of this number converts to stopovers, can you imagine the benefits that would accrue to the local economy,” she said.

The Minister further noted that spending of stopover passengers averaged US$102.00 per person in 2004 compared with US$84 per person spent by cruise passengers. “Needless to say, the foreign exchange gains from new stopover passengers would be phenomenal,” she said, adding that traditionally, cruise passengers stayed for less than a day, while last year a stopover visitor averaged almost 10 nights.

With the conversion of cruise ship passengers to stopover visitors, Minister Assamba said other stakeholders such as airlines, restaurants, attractions, craft vendors, and many others would profit from increased visitor arrivals. “These tourists who are staying longer will participate in more activities than cruise passengers. They will shop at more craft vendors, visit more attractions and eat at more restaurants,” she said.

The Minister lauded the current Freestay Caribbean partners as visionaries, who were investing today to reap future gains. She also encouraged other stakeholders to become a part of the venture, as more participants with attractive offerings could only mean more visitors arriving to our shores.

Corah Ann Robertson-Sylvester, Chief Executive Officer at Seaboard Freight and Shipping Jamaica Limited and the major sponsor of the program, pointed out that the benefits of the program would accrue, not only to large hotels, but also to just about anyone who operated a tourism business.

“Restaurants, shops, tour operators and taxi drivers can all benefit from the marketing opportunities and direct patronage as long as they are prepared to give visitors some added value through discounts or special packages,” she said.

Mrs. Robertson-Sylvester further noted that research has shown that 70 per cent of cruise ship passengers take a land-based vacation in the years immediately following their cruise. This, she said, meant that in the past five years, Jamaica has failed to take advantage of the opportunity of direct marketing to 3.36 million people.

“In the event we targeted that market and only 10 per cent decided to vacation in Jamaica, we would have attracted an additional 336,000 visitors to our island,” she pointed out.

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