Impressive performance in tourism

Impressive performance in tourism

Monday, June 08, 2015

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News that Jamaica recorded a five per cent increase in overall visitor arrivals for the 2014/15 winter tourist season is most welcome.

In fact, the industry's performance, shared by Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill on Saturday night at the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association's (JHTA's) 54th Annual General Meeting and convention in Montego Bay, is most impressive, given that Jamaica's core markets are still recovering from the global economic depression that hit hard seven years ago.

A 9.1 per cent increase in stopover arrivals from the United States between January and April is nothing to sneeze at. Neither is the 27.5 per cent increase in visitors from the United Kingdom, which Dr McNeill aptly described as a "marked improvement over previous years".

Minister McNeill also revealed that cruise passenger arrivals grew by 11.2 per cent and told the convention that based on these figures the outlook for this summer Is positive and expectations are high for the fall, as well as the 2015/16 winter season.

Place all that against the background of Minister McNeill's revelation on Saturday of more airlift out of Europe and what we have is a tourism industry that will continue to boom as long as there are no adverse geopolitical, social or weather events for the remainder of this year.

While that is our fervent hope, we cannot, based on previous experience, place all our eggs in one basket. Because we cannot predict what men will do, neither can we control the forces of nature.

That is why we applaud the Jamaica Tourist Board and the JHTA for relentlessly marketing and promoting Jamaica in numerous markets.

The results of their sterling efforts are seen in the decision by Falcon and Thomson holidays to introduce a new direct service from Ireland to Jamaica next summer using Thomson Airways; new service from Gothenburg, Sweden, via Oslo, Norway, to Montego Bay; and TUI Sweden's plan to increase from fortnightly to weekly, service from Stockholm to Montego Bay starting in December this year.

As we have pointed out before in this space, attracting that volume of business is extremely hard and unending work, for Jamaica has to compete with many other destinations across the world for a slice of the massive tourism pie.

Just two months ago, the UN World Tourism Organization reported that international tourist arrivals increased by 4.4 per cent in 2014, reaching a total of 1,135 million, while international tourism receipts amounted to a record US$1,245 billion, an increase of US$48 billion over 2013.

Clearly, this is an industry that is growing and every Jamaican should make a serious effort to ensure that this country continues to benefit more from that growth.

That will require us making sure that our country is safe, first for us as Jamaicans, as that will redound to the benefit of our visitors; and that we extend to our guests the type of warm welcome for which Jamaicans are known internationally.

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