Tourism arrivals inch up
Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
WESTERN BUREAU: Jamaica's visitor arrivals between January to August are up by 2.6 per cent over last year and the country expects to top its 2013 two-million mark by year end.
"We had a great summer, and in July we had a record 221,000 stopover visitors, the most that the country has ever recorded in a single month," Tourism and Entertainment Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill told delegates at the opening of the Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX) Sunday night.
The premier tourism marketing event, organised by the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) and the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), has attracted 230 suppliers representing Jamaica's hospitality and tourism industry and more than 300 buyers from the world's major wholesale, tour operators and travel agents.
The two-day confab is now on at the Montego Convention Centre.
McNeill credits the growth of the sector to buoyancy in all of the island's source markets, particularly the United Kingdom, which has contributed a 13 per cent increase to the mix.
According to the tourism minister, investments in hotels have continued, by both locals and foreigners, to a value of approximately J$54 billion between 2012 and 2014.
"Major international and local investors in hotels were Sagicor, RIU, Blue Diamond, Melia, Palace Resorts, Hyatt and Karisma," said the tourism minister.
The country has done well, if not better than many of its competitors, he stated, in retaining a fair percentage of the foreign exchange earned from the sector.
McNeill's comments were bolstered by president of the JHTA, Nicola Madden-Greig, who said the world was not standing still, nor were the JHTA and its members.
"JAPEX is being hosted at a time of great optimism, positivity and innovation," Madden-Greig told the gathering, pointing out that buyers from the United States, Australia, the Czech Republic, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Mexico and the UK were in Jamaica ready to do business.
In addition, her organisation had embraced change, welcoming again this year the partnership with JAMPRO, the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association, Jamaica Business Development Corporation and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, through the Tourism Linkages Council.
Some 30 of Jamaica's manufacturers and suppliers to the industry are showcasing their products and services at the trade show.