By Adrian Frater, News Editor
TOURISM MINISTER Aloun Assamba is firmly of the belief that the current positive trends being experienced in Jamaica's tourism is more as a result of the effort of stakeholders rather than events taking place elsewhere in the world.
In dismissing the view that the current boom could end on account of other tourism destinations bouncing back from the impact of 9/11, Minister Assamba said she expects no such impact.
"We are not doing well because others are doing badly," she said. "We are benefiting from the negotiations that we have done in getting airlifts into Jamaica from investors upgrading their properties and from the hard work from the people who are involved in this industry."
And in stating that "Jamaica has a reason for people wanting to come here", Minister Assamba said that the number of repeat guests that Jamaica gets, which she stated is about 40 per cent, is a clear indication that there is a market for what the country has to offer.
"I don't believe we have to worry about new markets being opened or about the other markets becoming available to travellers again," she continued. "I think we stand on our product and we have done a lot of hard work to get it to where it is."
Mr. Dennis Morrison, who is chairman of both the Airport Authority of Jamaica (AAJ) and the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), said stakeholders in the local travel industry should do everything to ensure that the positive forecast for the winter tourist season becomes a reality.
"Jamaica depends on this industry (tourism) not just to earn foreign exchange," Mr. Morrison said, adding that "such a perception no longer holds in modern Jamaica."
"Nowadays, it is the driver of economic activity across all the sectors, agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, entertainment and I could go on and on," he noted.
In speaking to the need for persons intimately involve in the industry needs to give it a positive image, Mr. Morrison said persons such as customs and immigration officers need to do their work in such a manner that the travelling public does not feel that it is being badly treated.
CUSTOMS AND IMMIGRATION
"We know that the airport cannot operate without you because much needs to be done to improve the way you do your jobs," said Mr. Morrison, in emphasising the roles of customs and immigration officers. "We are not asking you not to observe the rules, we not asking you to let off anyone. We are asking you to do your job in a way that make Jamaica a friendly place to visit."
And in putting his own spin on the upcoming season, Director of Tourism Paul Pennicook, in alluding to past events such as the Y2K scare leading in 2000 and the events of 9/11, said this year marks the first time since 1999 that he can recall ever hearing that hotel rooms for the Christmas/New Year period were booked out from as early as between late October to early November.
"I am excited about the fact that we are getting back to what we use to do," said Mr. Pennicook, who urged stakeholders to use Jamaica's unique features to keep visitors interested in our tourism product. "The numbers this year shows that our stop-over arrivals are up by 6 per cent, cruise arrival is up over 35 per cent and so collectively, our visitor arrival is up 17 per cent."