Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism storms Europe and boosts investor confidence

LONDON, England – (JIS) European investor confidence in Jamaica received a major boost this week as Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett embarked on a whistle-stop tour of key cities, drumming up interest in Jamaica’s tourism product and wooing investors.

The minister paid special attention to securing current airlift out of growing markets like Ireland and Spain, while holding discussions with major airline principals over the expansion of routes to Jamaican gateways.

The minister held high-profiled meetings in Madrid, Dublin and London with current investors and a significant number of potential investors.

Minister Bartlett

The minister said Spanish investor confidence in Jamaica remained very high with current investors reaffirming their commitment to their Jamaican operations even as new entrepreneurs expressed their interest in Jamaica’s tourism sector. Following a meeting with all the major Spanish players in Jamaica’s hotel sector, Minister Bartlett said the mood was buoyant and positive.

“Investor confidence is very strong and we are seeing new interests particularly in the area of marine attractions. I met with the chairman of the largest marine attraction in Majorca and he has indicated a serious interest in investing in Jamaica,” said Minister Bartlett.

An agreement was reached to stage a mini summit among all investors in the accommodation sector, in Jamaica, in September.

The minister said he recognised a need for the development of marketing operations to improve competitiveness in the changing global economic climate.

He also held discussions with airlines and tour operators to try and secure airlift arrangements out of Spain. He met with the chairman of Air Europa and principals of Air Comet. The discussions focused on the retention of Air Comet’s current schedules to the Caribbean and further expansion. Air Comet currently has three flights to Jamaica and the minister said he was keen to have them expanded for the winter 2009 tourist season. He also discussed the possibility of Air Europa flying directly to Jamaica.

In the Republic of Ireland, the minister held talks with principals of leading Irish carrier Aer Lingus with a view to increase tourism traffic from that country to Jamaica. He encouraged Aer Lingus to resume direct flights to Jamaica.

The minister said: “We are quite excited about Ireland. It is something of a new market and we are now placing emphasis on the legacy from the cricket world cup when we hosted the Irish team in Jamaica. We are trying to ensure that Irish outbound traffic can gain access to Jamaican gateways through key United States hubs like Atlanta, New York and Chicago.”

The minister said he recognised the need for increased marketing in the Irish market and is actively pursuing this course. He noted that last year stop over arrivals from Ireland increased by 20 per cent and this growth is now running at 50 per cent since the start of this year.

Minister Bartlett also met with Dublin airport authorities and discussed the hub and spoke network across the counties with a view to driving traffic to Jamaica. He said outbound traffic from Ireland currently stands at over 20 million with a significant number going to North America. “We want to attract some of that traffic to Jamaica,” he added.

While in Dublin the minister also met with a media contingent and tour operators.

In London, Minister Bartlett met with the president of the World Tourism and Travel Council Jean Claude Baumgarten. They discussed the development of tourism in the south west of Jamaica as well as the role of tourism in the Beijing Olympics. He held meetings with a group of investors in London who have also expressed an interest in Jamaica’s marine tourism.

On the administrative side, he held meetings with all stakeholders and service providers in Europe, including public relations and advertising agencies and Jamaica Tourist Board staff. The minister reviewed the performance of the sector for the year to date and outlined the vision and strategies for the way forward. He emphasised the need for niche marketing and challenged the team to appeal to the passions of the vacationing public.

He said: “Bearing in mind the shifts in the key economies of the world, as affordability decreases the demand for travel impelled by special interests will increase. We have to capitalise in areas of sports, health and religious tourism.”

The minister held important discussions with Irish investors related to major projects in sports tourism, based on cricket and golf.

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