Fri | Dec 9, 2016

Winter tourist season kicks off

Published:Friday | December 12, 2014 | 12:00 AMJanet Silvera

WESTERN BUREAU:

Jamaica will have access to 1.2 million airline seats for the upcoming winter tourist season, an increase of 15 per cent over the same period 2013-2014.

"The USA is up with over 58,000 seats, and there is an overall increase of approximately 163,000 seats to Jamaica," Minister of Tourism and Entertainment Dr Wykeham McNeill told members of the business community, at a Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry luncheon at the Montego Bay Convention Centre Thursday afternoon.

Boasting of a winter tourist season that he says looks "positive", McNeill said projections indicate gross foreign-exchange earnings are poised to increase by 4.6 per cent, or US$868 million, up from some US$830 million in 2013.

The season runs from December 15 to April 13.

Cruise shipping is also holding its own, with some 611,515 visitors expected to arrive on the island. This would be "a 5.6 per cent increase over last winter", McNeill said, adding that the industry was expecting a 10 per cent increase in cruise-ship arrivals in 2014, with the piers at Falmouth and Montego Bay leading the improvement.

REVIVING OCHO RIOS

Addressing concerns regarding Ocho Rios, the former cruise-ship capital, which has had marked decline in business, the tourism minister said it was well known that the resort town was targeted for substantial renovation through a programme undertaken by his ministry, the Urban Development Corporation and the Port Authority of Jamaica.

"Phase 2, which focused on the cruise ship terminal building and the facility's parking area, was completed over the last week," he revealed, noting that the ministry was also spearheading a joint committee to address harassment in the resort town.

In the meantime, between January and October, Jamaica welcomed a total of 2.8 million visitors, a six per cent increase over 2013.

"Of these, 1.7 million were stopover visitors and 1.1 million cruise visitors," said McNeill.

Preliminary airport arrivals for November show a four per cent increase, an indication that yet again, Jamaica will top the two-million mark in stopover visitors for 2014.

The positive outlook was supported by head of the tourism stakeholders organisation, the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, whose president, Nicola Madden-Greig, said the upcoming winter season was being viewed by her members with a sense of optimism and excitement.

Jamaica, she pointed out, would see the introduction of a few new international brands, such as the Hyatt Ziva, which opened its doors to accepting its first guests on Wednesday, and the Hyatt Zilara, which should open by December 20.

In addition, she said visitors would benefit from renovated attraction facilities islandwide.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com