WykehamMcNeillWykeham McNeill, Jamaica’s new minister of tourism and entertainment, has wasted no time aligning goals and priorities.

Five days into his new post, McNeill spoke with Travel Weekly to discuss key issues facing Jamaica as the country gears up for its 50th anniversary celebrations this year, kicks off its 16th annual Jazz and Blues festival Jan. 26 and tallies final visitor numbers for 2011.

“My portfolio has expanded with the addition of entertainment, which has great synergy with tourism,” McNeill said. “Entertainment has many elements, such as youth, culture and heritage, and these will mesh with and anchor our tourism message and product.”

Key issues for McNeill include keeping the tourism product “refreshed and front and center” and the involvement of all sectors in the planning and development of tourism marketing “to determine where we are and where we want to go.”

Continued diversification of markets and expanded airlift top McNeill’s agenda. Both issues were at the forefront of McNeill's predecessor, Edmund Bartlett.

While final visitor numbers are not yet in for 2011, McNeill said Jamaica “did increase arrivals last year, and our numbers right now look good going forward,” he said.

Next week’s annual Caribbean Marketplace event at Atlantis “will give us a good indication of where we are headed.”

Follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtraveleekly.

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