New markets, technology, additional partnerships and investments dominate Jamaica's 2010 game plan for visitor arrivals, according to Edmund Bartlett, minister of tourism.

Bartlett, in New York City to launch the destination's "winter stimulus" program at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on Jan. 6, reported 4-5% growth in visitor arrivals in 2009, bringing the total to 1.8 million. U.S. arrivals increased approximately 3%, to 1.2 million.

Strong growth from Canada, increased market share in the U.K. and growth in emerging markets such as Germany, Brazil, and Russia helped boost arrivals "in a very trying year for global tourism," said Bartlett.

Although revenue climbed less than 1% in 2009, price incentives combined with a 50% increase in airlift boosted the tourism picture "substantially," he said.

Already, the winter season is off to its strongest start in years, with Jamaica welcoming more than 100,000 visitors since Christmas, Bartlett said.

In line with the drive for new partnerships, Bartlett announced an agreement with German operator TUI that is expected to bring well more than the 30,000 Germans who visited Jamaica in 2009. The agreement calls for a number of scheduled charter flights to Jamaica throughout the year.

In a move aimed at the travel agent community, Bartlett said that a booking engine managed by Jamaica Vacations will be added to the destination's website at www.visitjamaica.com later this year. The site will link directly to travel agents who specialize in Jamaica.

Casino gambling in Jamaica will get off the ground later this year, following the expected passage of casino legislation in the first quarter, according to Bartlett.

The bill calls for casinos in two hotels -- Harmony Cove (not yet built) and Celebration Jamaica near the Palmyra resort -- and the soon-to-open convention center in Montego Bay.

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