Jamaica can get more tourists from Asia

World Travel Awards founder says island should capitalise on popularity of Marley, Bolt

BY KARENA BENNETT Business reporter bennettk@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

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Founder of the prestigious World Travel Awards Graham Cooke reckons that Jamaica could capitalise on globally recognised icons like Usain Bolt and Bob Marley to attract more Asian tourists.

Cooke, who was speaking at the 24th staging of the awards’ Caribbean and North America Gala Ceremony last Saturday, said Jamaica has a lot to be proud of in copping the title of Caribbean’s Leading Destination’, among other industry awards, but more unity is needed amongst tourism players to remain competitive in the global market.

"Jamaica has been unique in Bob Marley’s music, in all-inclusive hotels, and is known for some of the most beautiful hotels in the world. Hospitality is very important to Jamaica, but it is a very competitive market on the global scale and you’ve got to appeal to the Chinese, Japanese and the Indians. Over half the world’s population is in Asia, many of which do not speak English," Cooke told the Jamaica Observer.

According to recent statistics from the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), total stopover arrivals in 2015 exceeded the two million mark to reach a record of 2,123,042. That’s 2.1 per cent above the 2,080,181 arrivals recorded in 2014 and this was dominated by arrivals from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Europe.

However, Asian countries such as China, Japan and India were the main visitor-producing countries in the JTB’s ‘other parts of the world’ category. The JTB noted that China, when compared to 2014, grew by 41.6 per cent to 3,744 visitors, while Japan was up seven per cent to 2,163 for the year. India, however, fell by 7.6 per cent to 1,833 visitors.

China’s massive growth trend might have been led by Jamaica’s stamp of approval for the removal of visa requirements for Chinese visitors in 2014.

"I can remember the Half Moon Hotel trying to get into Japan 25 years ago. Japan is still the second-to-third largest country in the world, and the Japanese 100 million people do not speak English. They don’t know about Melia Braco, they don’t know about GoldenEye; imagine trying to explain Strawberry Hill to the Japanese. The industry needs to get together and show the world how great Jamaica really is. Look at what Usain Bolt has done for the country and Bob Marley’s music; your tourism industry is in the same area," Cooke continued.

The Caribbean and North America Gala Ceremony 2016, which is dubbed one of the Oscars of the tourism industry globally, was hosted by Sandals Ocho Rios Beach Resort. During the event, Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett received a special award, the Caribbean’s Leading Personality for Outstanding Services to Tourism, while Sandals Resorts International was again voted Caribbean’s Leading Hotel Brand.

Cooke told the Business Observer that Jamaica should be very proud this year, having done well throughout the Caribbean and for its achievements in the categories of Caribbean’s leading new hotel, new boutique hotel and the conference awards.

He however noted that with an influx of new destinations and massive investments in a number of countries, including Peru and Dubai, Jamaica must use its history of hospitality to gain competitive advantage.

Each year the World Travel Awards stages a series of regional gala ceremonies to recognise and celebrate individual and collective successes within each key geographical region.

The event is widely regarded as the best networking opportunity in the travel industry, attended by government and industry leaders, luminaries, and international print and broadcast media.

Also among the winners at the Caribbean and North America Gala Ceremony 2016 was the Turks and Caicos Islands, which took the award for the Caribbean’s Leading Beach Destination, while the trophy for the Caribbean’s Most Romantic Destination went to Antigua and Barbuda.

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