Jamaica’s Tourism Experiences Strong First Quarter

KINGSTON, Janauca – Jamaica’s Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett has reported that the island’s tourism has had a strong start in 2008. Making his contribution to the 2008/2009 Sectoral Debate in Jamaica recently, the Tourism Minister indicated that preliminary figures indicate that the local industry has taken off with a healthy 13% increase in stopover arrivals for January through April over the same period last year, with a marginal increase of 1% in cruise passenger arrivals. According to Minister Bartlett, the preliminary total visitor arrivals (stop over and cruise) for the period was a record 1.2 million, with an estimated 10% increase in earnings amounting to US$723.6 million.

During his presentation, Mr. Bartlett also highlighted some of the many awards the destination has won from top travel trade and consumer outlets. He acknowledged these are a testament to the strengths of the destination, adding that if Jamaica was to continue to excel, there would be “the need to innovate, to change, to respond to the new demands of our industry so that we remain a world-class travel destination.”

Minister Bartlett

According to Minister Bartlett, “We must create a new tourism for Jamaica, one which is more inclusive, characterized by strategic alliances with the government, private sector and the communities, putting people at the centre. This partnership will provide a greater share of voice for indigenous entrepreneurs, international investors and small and medium enterprises,” noted Bartlett.

In outlining his vision for a new tourism, Mr. Bartlett said it ought to be a transforming kind of tourism built on the three pillars of Marketing, Product Development and Investment. This new tourism, he indicated, will chart the way forward and will begin with a re-tooling of a number of portfolio areas within his Ministry. He announced that the Jamaica Tourist Board will be adding a new department of Cruise, Marine Tourism and Attractions that will promote land-based attractions and marine tourism activities and facilitate increased productivity.

Minister Bartlett underlined the importance of capacity building as the industry grows indicating that the aim is to recruit an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 new hospitality students over the next five to 10 years. This will be achieved through the creation of a new Hospitality School in Montego Bay, to which the Spanish government has committed US$1 million for technical assistance and soft loans for the development and training processes. Expected to open late next year, the school will provide practical middle management and supervisory training in all areas relevant to the delivery of excellent service.

In his presentation to the Sectoral Debate, the Minister noted that plans are underway to make the industry much more attractive as a career choice adding that his Ministry will facilitate discussions with the industry to establish an adequate pension plan for every worker in the tourist industry.

He said Cabinet has already approved a Steering Committee comprising government agencies and industry partners to develop the plan.

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