Ja waives visa requirements for Chinese tourists
China's ambassador to Jamaica, Dong Xiaojun, yesterday said the waiver of the visa requirements for Chinese to visit the land of sea and sun is likely to be widely well-received by persons in the east Asian country.
Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill announced that the removal of the visa restriction comes against the background of China's "potential for growth as a tourism source market for Jamaica".
He noted that while China was now the largest spender in international tourism globally, it has been difficult to "achieve substantial growth in Chinese arrivals, as many Chinese citizens have had to travel great distances simply to obtain a visa from the Jamaican Embassy in Beijing".
Dong told The Gleaner the waiver of the visa requirements was "very good and exciting news for Chinese tourists".
He added: "I believe that Chinese tourists will definitely take full advantage of this decision, especially now that Jamaica is getting better and better known in China with Usain Bolt and reggae music and Blue Mountain Coffee."
During a visit to China last year, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller had underscored the Government's intention to tap into the travel-rich Chinese market.
"We want the Chinese visitors to visit with us in Jamaica and for Jamaicans to visit China," the prime minister had said.
China, in 2013, recorded 72.5 million outbound trips for the first three quarters of 2013. Chinese tourists spent US$102 billion abroad in 2012. Only 2,420 Chinese tourists visited Jamaica last year.
PLANNING TO WOO VISITORS
During a Jamaica House press briefing yesterday, McNeill said his ministry would be using an upcoming trade show to woo travel agents and airlines in a bid to secure an inflow of Chinese visitors to the island. He said while the bid to get Chinese tourists would not commence with direct flights between Jamaica and China, the ministry was actively pursuing ways of connectivity.
"What we will do is that we (will) go now to the trade show. … We will meet with the travel agents and tour operators who actually move people, and then have discussions with them to see what the possibilities are," McNeill said.
"My team and I will now be looking at strengthening the marketing efforts of the JTB (Jamaica Tourist Board), part of which will involve the director of tourism and I attending the Shanghai Trade Show in April. We will also be continuing our discussions on developing airlift arrangements from the region," McNeill said.
Dong, meanwhile, is confident that once tourists begin spreading the word about the Jamaican experience, Chinese will begin to descend on Jamaica in droves.
"As soon as the Chinese tourist hears the news of the visa waiver, they will definitely want to come to visit Jamaica, and they will definitely be impressed by the beautiful scenery of Jamaica and also the hospitality of the Jamaican people. The word whispers out. The first group of Chinese tourists, when they get back home, they will tell their friends and their colleagues what they have experienced here," Dong said.
The Chinese ambassador has admitted that while there is potential, the distance and the absence of direct flight pose a problem. He noted, however, that "many tourists are already in the United States and Canada".
"I think it is an extended lap of a trip. Most likely, they will be looking for multi-destination tourism. I think Jamaica should prepare some packages for Jamaica and some Caribbean countries in this region so that the Chinese tourist will have a choice."