AS the recovery of tourism picks up amid increased bookings and positive projections, Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett is looking to further strengthen the industry by extending its footprint in new markets.
Already attracting millions of tourists from North America and Europe, the minister said the focus is to now tap Asia as one of the new markets for tourism. As the largest continent in the world, with a population of 4.5 billion people, Asia is diversely rich in people, culture, and resources.
“This area represents the new frontier for us. We are very strong in the Americas and north-western Europe and [are] also building strength in South America, but we are relatively flat in the Asian and the Middle Eastern markets,” he said during an interview at the 29th edition of an Arabian Travel Market (ATM) event held recently in Dubai.
Bartlett said by using the Middle East as a gateway, the intention is to strengthen connectivity across major cities, particularly India, on the continent.
“India is the next big oyster for us. In fact, we think that India has enormous potential as a romance and wedding destination — and Jamaica is the perfect place for weddings. People can get married on the beaches, mountains, river banks, waterfalls or just about anywhere. It is also a tremendous destination for anniversaries and for celebrating occasions, and I know that the Indians have a very strong tradition for family and celebrating. They also love cricket and we play great cricket,” Bartlett said.
Just recently the minister, in affirming his plans to tap these new and largely untapped markets, said that the tourism ministry would be moving to capitalise on the popularity of Jamaican cricketer-turned-reggae artiste Chris Gayle, by using him as a part of its promotional campaign to attract these visitors. Gayle is currently featured on a compilation album titled The Tropical House Cruises to Jamaica: The Asian Edition which also comprises a number of local and international singers.
“Chris Gayle is certainly a huge asset to Jamaica and a central figure in the engagement of Asians, particularly Indians. When you call his name in India it is magic, so whatever important values he brings to this engagement, however it can enhance Jamaica’s presence in that market, that is something we are not about to pass on,” Bartlett recently told the JIS.
Referring to first-quarter results which he said were now some 78 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, the minister believes that by adding these new routes, tourism could be strengthened well above the 2023 expected timeline scheduled for full recovery.
“The projections are that we will be stronger in the summer; we have over one million confirmed seats coming out of the United States alone for the summer. This summer is also a high point for the celebration of the 60th Independence anniversary of Jamaica so we’re also expecting a flood of Diaspora travels coming from all over the world, in addition to the drive that is there for visitors to break the COVID-19 spell and bring themselves to start enjoying life again,” he said.
“The bookings for June, July and August have been very strong and we are expecting that by the end of this year we should be in excess of 80 per cent of 2019 and should surpass 2019 in 2023,” he added.