AMIDST the staging of the 19th World Athletics Championships underway in Budapest, Hungary, Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett is leading a marketing blitz with a strong focus on utilising sports tourism to promote destination Jamaica and strengthen ties with Europe.
"We met with over 50 tour operators, travel agents and media representatives at the President's Hotel," Bartlett revealed. "We discussed the new way in which Jamaica will engage Central and Eastern European countries, including Poland, Georgia, Serbia and Bulgaria, among others. The connection, of course, being through Berlin, Germany, via Condor that has a direct route between Montego Bay and Berlin. We are also in discussions with a major private sector player about their plans to operate charter flights between Bulgaria and Jamaica for winter 2023/24."
The tourism minister highlighted that despite the current low traffic between Hungary and Jamaica, the appetite for travel to Jamaica is strong and he is excited to capitalise on this.
"As Jamaica doubles down on its efforts to increase visitor arrivals, this will provide a unique opportunity to leverage the power of sports tourism to promote Jamaica as an attractive and dynamic travel destination and strengthen the relationship between Jamaica and Europe," he explained.
The tourism minister further noted that these engagements align with the Ministry of Tourism's Blue Ocean Strategy, which aims to strengthen arrivals from non-traditional markets and foster local product differentiation.
Along the same vein, Minister Bartlett welcomed the recent announcement from the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) that the Hotels & Restaurants industry grew by 9 per cent in the April to June 2023 quarter, with preliminary estimates on foreign national arrivals standing at 705,031 visitors — an increase of 14.2 per cent compared with the corresponding quarter of 2022.
The latest tourism figures also show that between January and July of this year Jamaica welcomed some 2.47 million visitors. This includes 1.72 million stopover visitors and 747,643 cruise visitors — more than twice the number recorded for the corresponding period in 2022 — with gross earnings of US$2.59 billion.
"You're looking at a more than 24 per cent increase in gross tourism dollars earned in just those seven months," Bartlett pointed out. "The economy continues to grow, and tourism continues to play a big role in that.
"Coming out of the pandemic, tourism has consistently demonstrated its resilience and, as a result, the sector's contribution to the Jamaican economy cannot be overlooked," he asserted. "Now, more than ever, we are focused on advancing programmes and policies that ensure this growth trajectory is sustained."
With the PIOJ's recent quarterly report confirming that total visitor expenditure for April 2023 increased by 19.7 per cent, compared with the corresponding month of 2022, as well as a 14.7 per cent uptick in preliminary airport arrivals for July 2023, Jamaica is on track to meet its projections of 3.8 million visitors and foreign exchange earnings of US$4.1 billion by the end of the year.
Bartlett again emphasised the dual-purpose nature of his trip.
"The other noteworthy area is the impact of the World Athletics Championships where the Jamaicans are performing creditably and are expected to do greater things leading up to Sunday's closure," he remarked. "Already we have three medals — two silver and a bronze — and we are expecting to pick up several gold medals in the coming days."