Although Jamaica may have gained some visitors who rebooked Mexico vacations due to H1N1 fears, the visitor uptick could be "very temporary," according to Director of Tourism John Lynch.

Lynch warned that "Jamaica needs to be aggressive, visible and top of mind for consumers and the trade."

Addressing delegates attending the annual Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX) in Montego Bay on Monday, Lynch outlined the current tourism picture and revealed initiatives to boost arrivals, tap into new markets and support tour operators and travel agents.

"Jamaica’s stayover visitors increased 3.9% in 2008, and 1.8% from January through April this year in a very tough economic climate, " Lynch said. "We’ve got 1.2 million airline seats from the U.S. this summer, including new JetBlue service, additional Air Jamaica flights and Funjet and Apple charters from the Midwest."

New lift from South America, additional flights from Europe and increased interest from Asia and India "will assure our position as a year-round destination and will supplement the business from the U.S., our largest and most important market," Lynch said.

Although cruise business dropped 7.7% in 2008, Pullmantur Cruises will return to Jamaica 32 times in the next two winter seasons; Fred Olsen Cruises will increase its calls in the 2010-11 season to 17 with four originating in Jamaica; and 11 of Aida Cruises’ calls in the 2010-11 season will offer partial homeporting so that travelers can board in Jamaica.

Completion date for the new Falmouth Pier is May 2010, "and bookings already are in place for calls at that port," according to Lynch.

The Jamaica Tourist Board will host more than 3,000 agents at various presentations in key U.S. markets over the next few months.

The tourist board also will bring in another 1,000 agents on 26 fam tours between September and December, and will host four fams this fall targeting destination weddings, families, affinity groups and health/wellness.

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI