Minister expects record tourist arrivals
Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
Jamaica expects to welcome more than 3.5 million stopover and cruise ship visitors by the end of 2014.
The island's arrivals are up by some four per cent over 2013, Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill told delegates attending the just-concluded Tourism Outlook Seminar at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James.
According to McNeill, despite the harsh global economic environment and the threat of recession in regions such as Europe, things have been going well for Jamaica's tourism sector.
"Our arrivals are up by some four per cent over last year and we expect to maintain our level of stopovers this year of more than two million visitors."
2013 was record year
McNeill emphasised that the current growth is over 2013, which was a landmark year, "when we recorded over two million stopover arrivals and 1.4 million cruise ship visitors, which pushed our total tourist arrivals to around 3.5 million".
The figure, he boasts, is much more than the country's total population of roughly 2.7 million.
Noting this was a very positive sign and a clear indication that the tourism sector was doing well and poised for further growth, the tourism minister said, "While the tourism industry is being developed as a critical element of the national economy, its social impact must be felt by the people. Our efforts to develop community tourism locally plays a major role in achieving this goal."
He also stressed that with the strong dependence on tourism as a pillar of the regional economy, "we must do everything possible to facilitate travel to our respective destinations".
McNeill listed a number of initiatives being undertaken in collaboration with the Ministry of National Security to make the international airports more customer-friendly. He emphasised that in addition to monies previously expended, the Tourism Enhancement Fund has committed $200 million over the next five years to facilitate the introduction of new technology and to re-engineer operations at immigration.
He also highlighted the partnership being fostered with the entertainment and creative industries as well as steps being taken to protect and develop indigenous craft.