Ja eases travel requirements for 23 countries
Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
In a bid to expand the reach of the country's tourism product, Jamaica has waived visa requirement for 23 countries - 16 in Europe and seven in Latin America.
A ministry paper tabled in the House of Representatives last week indicates that Cabinet has granted approval for the conditional visa waiver for nationals of selected countries for travel to Jamaica for tourism purposes for periods of 30 days.
The visa waiver relates to nationals of Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kazakhstan, Estonia, Kosovo, El Salvador, The Dominican Republic, Honduras, Paraguay, Lithuania, Latvia, Moldova, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, the Republic of Serbia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Guatemala, and Peru.
Must have visa
In order to benefit from the visa waiver, persons must have a valid visa from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom or the Schengen region.
Nationals of the 16 European countries must also present proof that they are immunised against measles, rubella and polio. Further, nationals of Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru must demonstrate that they are vaccinated against yellow fever.
According to Dennis Morrison, chairman of the Jamaica Tourist Board, in seeking to penetrate new markets, Jamaica has targeted countries in Latin America and Europe where soundings indicate there is a strong interest in the local product.
"We have had an embassy in Germany for 10 years now and there is a senior officer there who has been doing a lot of promotional work. We have been visiting travel trade shows, talking to airlines, tour operators and reaching out to consumers. And based on the economic situation in each of these countries, we know where the best prospects are, and that has helped to inform the choice of countries," said Morrison in relation to the European countries.
He noted that the Latin American countries are relatively close to Jamaica, with some experiencing economic growth. Morrison also pointed to the Spanish hotels which are now operating in Jamaica as possible magnets for visitors from Latin America.
Morrison argued that many persons may be deterred from visiting Jamaica because of visa requirements, especially when there are alternatives.
Visa waiver for China
Jamaica in February waived visa requirements for nationals of China against the background of what Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill said then was China's "potential for growth as a tourism source market for Jamaica".
However, last week Morrison said it was too soon to evaluate the impact of the waiver for the Chinese.
The visa waiver programme for the European and Latin American countries will be reviewed after two years.
Morrison said that in addition to the visa-removal policy boosting visitor arrivals, the fact that European visitors stay longer on visits to the island would mean that the take from visitor spending would increase.
Junior Tourism Minister Damion Crawford has said the per day, per person earnings from stopover visitors was measured at US$117.83 last year, and this was expected to increase to US$118.3 per day, per person this year.