KINGSTON, Jamaica -- Portia Simpson Miller, Jamaica's minister of tourism and sports for the past year, is quite clear as to what she wants.

"I want to reposition Jamaica as the No. 1 destination in the Caribbean," Miller said.

Preliminary tourism numbers for 2000 indicate that Jamaica is on its way to meeting that goal.

"Cruise passenger figures increased 18% last year," Miller said. "We now have seven hotels that are Green Globe-certified, meaning each meets strict environmental and ecological requirements."

Overall visitors last year totaled 2.2 million, up 5.6% over the previous year.

Miller is blunt on certain issues affecting Jamaica.

"We are aggressively pursuing an antiviolence campaign in Jamaica," Miller said.

"Crimes of any kind have a ripple effect on tourism and our perception abroad."

She is promoting the importance of tourism to communities all over Jamaica.

"We need to get our own people more involved in tourism," Miller said.

At the same time, she said she hopes to exploit and expose "the hidden treasures of our country. Visitors want diversification and are no longer content with just sun, sand and sea."

Another goal is to reposition the capital of Kingston as a prime visitor destination.

Miller said that more leisure travelers are visiting Kingston.

"People who live in Kingston are now more aware of the value and importance of tourism," she said.

The Jamaican Travel Specialist program is high on Miller's priority list.

"I want to increase the number of fam trips offered on the program as well as the number of agent incentives," Miller said.

Increasing the awareness of the Insiders program for small hotels also is a key goal for the minister.

Currently, 60 properties are in the program. "It is a challenge to sell small hotels, but they represent the backbone and heart of our country," Miller said. "It is important that our visitors have the opportunity to experience a stay in a small property."

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