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Tourism boom looms - Destination Jamaica through the eyes of director Paul Pennicook

Published:Sunday | October 5, 2014 | 10:00 AM

Paul Pennicook, newly appointed director of tourism at the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB), sees big opportunities for the island's tourism sector.

Pennicook's confidence is borne out of the fact of what he says are the several key factors are coming together to make this happen. One such factor is that interest in Jamaica's tourism product has not waned in the marketplace as international investors continue to negotiate successful business deals with Jamaican associates. The increased interest in the destination is a major boost for domestic tourism.

The tourism director's assurance is buoyed by the demonstrated interest of international airline partners as well as the investment by international hotel brands into the island. Since the start of the millennium, the destination has seen a significant increase in the number of hotel chains that are now part of the local accommodation landscape.

There has been at least 15 new international hotels over the past 14 years. The brands that we have attracted include several high-end and renowned hotel chains, such as Blue Diamond, Hyatt, Karisma, Marriott, Melia, Iberostar, Grand Bahia Principe, and Riu. According to Pennicook, this growth has increased Jamaica's capacity to accommodate and host more guests due to the significant upsurge in hotel room stock.

MORE COMPETITIVE

This development has elevated the island's tourism product to be more competitive in the international marketplace, offering diversity in taste, experience and price point.

Accessibility continues to be a significant driver for increasing the number of visitors to the island. Improvement in Jamaica's air connectivity is another noteworthy milestone in the continued expansion and appeal of Destination Jamaica.

Pennicook shared that every major United States air carrier now flies into the island. This was a direct result of the new and continued partnerships with airline partners. To validate this point, he reiterated the historic success that the island enjoyed last year, as for the first time Jamaica recorded more than two million stopover arrivals in a year.

Some of the most recent airline partners include Southwest Airlines, which chose Jamaica as its preferred destination to launch its international flight package this past summer; Frontier Airlines out of Denver Colorado, introduced its only non-stop winter service to the Caribbean, while major air carrier Delta Airlines resumed services into Kingston, making it the only airline offering direct flights between Atlanta and Kingston. This reintroduction, he added, is a major boost for the Kingston gateway. Additionally, there are frequent charters into the island out of Europe, with Thomas Cook Scandinavia Airlines and Thomson Airlines.

NOTEWORTHY SUCCESS

The relaxation on visa requirements for travellers out of China, the world's largest outbound tourism source market in the world, remains beneficial. Destination Jamaica continues to see noteworthy success from this initiative, as since the beginning of 2014, there has been upward of 30 per cent increase in the arrivals from the Chinese market.

Now that the St Catherine leg of Highway 2000 has been opened, travellers have more options to choose which gateway is convenient. This improvement in our domestic roadway means that visitors can fly into Kingston or Montego Bay and be able to go anywhere on the island in significantly less travel time.

But these successes are the result of assiduous promotions, sales and strategic marketing efforts designed to continue to position Jamaica as the premier Caribbean destination. Keeping apace with, and being accessible to the technologically savvy traveller is a purposeful approach that the JTB is pursuing. In addition to the organisation's visitjamaica.com marketing website, Pennicook revealed that the JTB is in the process of investing in mobile technology with the creation of travel mobile apps.

This novel way of accessing travel information has become popular and in some instances more trendy than Internet searches, and tapping into this sector of the travel population will greatly augment the visibility and accessibility of information about Destination Jamaica.

For Pennicook, the job as chief marketer for Jamaica is made that much easier because Destination Jamaica is such a beautiful and unique place to promote.