Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
BEIJING, China:PRIME MINISTER Portia Simpson Miller has said discussions are taking place between the governments of Jamaica and China to deal with the issue of visa waivers.
In an interview with Chinese media last Friday, Simpson Miller said the move could boost tourism on the island, which she described as "one of the precious diamonds of the Caribbean".
"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, working with your foreign affairs ministry, and our ambassador will be working closely with your government for us to work on this particular area to get it right. We want the Chinese visitors to visit with us in Jamaica and for Jamaicans to visit China," the prime minister said.
serious agenda issue
Ralph Thomas, Jamaica's ambassador to China, said the issue of removing the visa requirement is "now a serious agenda issue".
"There are millions and millions of Chinese who are now travelling into North America and other destinations. Their average spend is quite high because the income level of the Chinese has increased significantly," Thomas told The Gleaner.
Currently, Chinese wishing to travel to Jamaica have to travel to Beijing and apply for a visa, which is considered to be a significant hurdle. Thomas said the discussions would also focus on having Jamaicans travel to China visa-free.
Thomas said the removal of visas could attract investment into the hotel sector, and argued that investors would seek to bring in Chinese to fill their hotels in order for them to enjoy the rich culture of the island and the sand, sea and sun.
Wan Jifei, chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, has noted in a meeting with Jamaican businesses that more than 83 million Chinese travelled as tourists in 2012.
Addressing approximately 100 prospective investors, Wan said tourism presents a great economic opportunity.