Mon | Jul 16, 2018

Visa exemptions soon for some Latin American countries

Published:Thursday | July 7, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett says Jamaica will be doing away with visa requirements for a number of Latin American countries in an effort to attract more visitors from the region.

This policy will target Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Peru. But Bartlett said that Poland and a few other European countries will also receive exemptions.

He was speaking to JIS News following a meeting with tourism industry players and stakeholders at the Montego Bay Convention Centre on Monday.

"The emphasis will be on these countries," the minister said. "The necessary work is being done to facilitate Latin American visitors coming into Jamaica, and we believe that we will be able to entice even more of them by making it easier to travel."

"Of the millions of Latin Americans who took overseas trips in 2014, we find that we should be getting a bigger piece of the pie. In terms of our geographical location and the nature of our tourism product, we should be able to effectively compete in this market," he added.

The minister said the lion's share of the Latin American travellers to the Caribbean go to Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Cuba.

In the case of Brazil, Bartlett indicated that a breakdown of the numbers showed that more than 24,000 Brazilians went to Aruba, while 9,300 went to The Bahamas in 2014. Only 2,925 visited Jamaica, while more than 5,000 visited Barbados.

"More than 23,000 Colombians visited Aruba versus just 4,100 who came to Jamaica, while 12,000 Argentineans went to Aruba, compared to just over 4,000 that came to Jamaica. The point is that we can do better out of Latin America and we must do better," he emphasised.

Bartlett pointed out that Asia was the fastest-growing region in the world, with the Japanese showing signs of a love for the Caribbean.

"What we are seeing is that the Japanese, Chinese and Indians are emerging as a huge part of the Asian market, thus creating a big opportunity for Jamaica," he said.

"I was recently in Japan, and what I can tell you is that the Japanese are ready to come back to the Caribbean. They are ready to travel again and we have to position ourselves to capitalise," Bartlett said.