Exec: Jamaica had its best year

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MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica -- The Jamaica Tourist Board reported 366,085 tourist arrivals in the first quarter, a 7% increase over the same period in 2003 and a 14.3% rise over the 2002 quarter.

Director of tourism Paul Pennicook said initial figures for April indicate a potential 15% gain, which may mean a 10% boost for the first four months.

Speaking at the Jamaica Product Exchange (Japex) here, Pennicook said Jamaica had its "best ever year in 2003," welcoming a record 1.35 million stopover visitors -- a 6.6% jump over the year before -- and 1.13 million cruise passengers, a 30% increase.

In other news at Japex:

" The JTB became a charter destination member of the Caribbean Escapes Collection marketing effort; minister of industry and tourism Aloun N'dombet Assamba signed membership documents opting for the full marketing package, with Web and TV promotions.

" The Jamaican government is eyeing the town of Lucea -- on the northwest coast between Montego Bay and Negril -- for development as the country's latest cruise destination.

" Iberostar next month is expected to break ground on the first component of a three-hotel resort complex to open near Montego Bay. A 350-room, midmarket property could be ready by December 2005. A second 350-unit hotel and a 250-room luxury property are also planned.

" Five small, luxury hotels in Negril teamed to form the Intimate Negril group, described as a "unique collection of upscale boutique resorts." Guests at founding member properties -- Idle Awhile, Moondance Villas, Seasplash, Tensing Pen and the Caves -- can share amenities at all the resorts, upon availability.

" My Jamaica -- a consortium promoting active, culinary, cultural and other experiential stays -- launched Jamaica's first-ever tourist-guide training program, said Colin McDonald, vice president of training and product development at member firm Jamaica Story Tours, Kingston. "We want professional guides who'll take Jamaican tourism to the next level," he said.

My Jamaica also said it will debut online booking at www.explorejamaica.org by January.

" Negril will host the next Japex, set for May 1 to 3, 2005.

To contact reporter Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to kkiesnos[email protected].

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