NEW YORK --
Jamaica's new government, headed by Prime Minister Bruce Golding,
"will foster tourism investment opportunities aggressively and at
unprecedented levels," according to Edmund Bartlett, the country's
minister of tourism.
the Jamaican-American Chamber of Commerce here earlier this
product development and investment, which Bartlett described as
"the three pillars of Jamaica's tourism policy," will ensure that
Jamaica has "the best product out there, coupled with a variety of
experiences for our visitors."
In 2006, Jamaica
set a record, topping 3 million stayover and cruise visitors (more
than 2 million were from the U.S.). Visitors generated $2 billion
worth of business. But Jamaica has not fared as well this
"We couldn't hold
on to those gains this year," Bartlett said. "The first seven
months saw a 10% to 12% decline in stayover business due to Mexico
coming back fully on stream following the 2005 hurricanes. That,
coupled with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative requiring
passports for air travelers re-entering the U.S., has set us
picture did brighten in September with a 4.8% increase in visitors
year over year.
minister envisions 5 million visitors per year by 2010: 3 million
air arrivals and 2 million cruise passengers.
"Five million is
the critical mass needed to drive up the level of investment that
will bring heads to beds and open up new attractions," he
providers want a destination that draws at least 3 million stopover
visitors a year before investing in a site, Bartlett
He's hopeful, too,
that the per capita earnings from cruise passengers, now calculated
at $83 per day, and stayover visitors, now at $100 a day, can top
$150 a day in both markets by the end of 2010.
plans call for the redevelopment and redesign of six key resort
areas on the island that "will complement and fit into the total
picture of Jamaica," Bartlett said.
plans to establish a School of Hospitality in Montego Bay to train
local youth in the tourism business, expand the airports and ports
and have a hotel inventory of 75,000 rooms by 2015, with 35% of
those rooms in the high-end, luxury category.
With that room
inventory in place, gross earnings from tourism could reach $7
billion a year, he said.
acknowledged, however, that the destination's reputation for crime
has negatively affected the perception of Jamaica as a vacation
"Crime pervades our
market, and we know that you in the U.S. know this," Bartlett said.
"These perceptions will disappear once we acknowledge the problems
and deal with them."
surveillance program that includes a mobile police station, more
training for the police and cameras mounted in selected areas of
Montego Bay "will send the message to drug dealers that we are
watching, we will find them and we will prosecute them," he
To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send
e-mail to [email protected]