MARRIAGE tourism is being targeted by the promoters of Jamaica's tourism product as one potential area of growth in the sector.
Dr Wykeham McNeill, minister of tourism and entertainment, made the announcement while making his contribution to the Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
"Among the areas that we will be looking at are health tourism, sports tourism, and we will be placing emphasis on the wedding and honeymoon markets," the minister said.
But almost as soon as McNeill had made the comment, opposition member Desmond McKenzie said, in a sotto voce remark, "Which one, we need fi know".
McKenzie soon joined government member Noel Arscott in crosstalk on the issue.
"If me have a bias? Yuh think me woulda support man and man or woman and woman?" McKenzie quizzed.
The response from Arscott was a wry smile.
Over recent years there have been accounts of same-sex and nude ceremonies taking place at some of Jamaica's attractions, particularly on the north coast.
Recently, a lesbian couple staged a re-enactment of their wedding at the luxurious Silver Sands property, near Duncans, in Trelawny.
In the meantime, McNeill said Jamaica was expected to see record tourism arrivals this year.
"It is estimated that for the first time in our history, there will be over one billion international tourist arrivals this year," McNeill said.
He said Jamaica should seek to deepen the linkages with tourism and other industries to ensure that the sector adds more to the country's economic development.
McNeill told Parliament that stopover arrivals for the months of May and June increased when compared to the corresponding period last year. He said in May, stopover arrivals increased by eight per cent and in June by nine per cent over the same period last year.
Foreign exchange earnings
"At the same time, our gross foreign-exchange earnings was US$1.12 billion, an increase of 4.2 per cent over the same period last year," McNeill said.
He added: "Though these figures are provisional, there is a clear indication that we are off to an excellent start."
The minister said between January and June stopover arrivals increased by 3.4 per cent, representing a total of more than one million visitors. He also said cruise-passenger arrivals reflected a 39.9 per cent increase or 775,000 visitors.
"The total visitor arrivals to Jamaica for the first half of the year has increased by 16 per cent," McNeill said.
"Although these figures are provisional, there is a clear indication that we are off to an excellent start," the minister said.
He said anticipation was that the upward trend would continue throughout the year, with Jamaica 50 and the London Olympics being the key drivers of tourist arrival.