MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill, has called on members of the Diaspora to take on the role of being ambassadors for Jamaica’s growing tourism industry as a valuable means of helping their homeland.
During a panel discussion at the 6th Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference now underway at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, Dr. McNeill asked members to: “Keep on being ambassadors, keep on coming back home and encourage your friends and family to come as well.”
He advised Diaspora members, “there are a lot of opportunities opening up in Jamaica,” adding that now was a good time to invest and it was important for them to know “because what I don’t want is for us not to have had this discussion and when the investment takes place some people come and say how come we never get a chance.”
The panel discussion, which was led by Dr. McNeill, focused on “Exploring and Contributing to Jamaica’s Tourism Product.” This was set against the background of the country being globally recognized for its tourism product and a determination to hold pride of place as the top destination in the Caribbean.
He stressed, however, that more focus should be placed on wooing second, third and fourth generation Jamaicans in the Diaspora as a tremendous opportunity existed in that market segment to give them a feeling of belonging here.
He said while there were many events on which the Jamaica Tourist Board and the Diaspora work together, “I believe there’s a lot more we could do.”
Dr. McNeill also pointed to the need for collaboration at the community level and the importance of Community Tourism in ensuring that the benefits of the industry are felt at all levels.
Speaking on the current status of Jamaica’s tourism, he said, “I could say we are hot as we are experiencing our biggest boom in tourism” with a 5 percent growth in stopovers this past winter season and a double-digit increase in cruise ship arrivals.
The United States market was up 9.1 percent while Europe moved up “phenomenally” with the United Kingdom up more than 27 percent.
He also spoke of increased seats and new air services opening up routes to Jamaica from both traditional and non-traditional markets.
“What this means is that with the new airlift, the partnerships we have developed, the investment that’s coming in, and I only speak of those that we have written down, all told we’re expecting in excess of 5000 rooms over the next five years in Jamaica.” Of that number, 1600 are slated to come on stream within the next eighteen months.
“When you consider that, the projection for tourism going forward is very strong,” Dr. McNeill declared.