KINGSTON – Barbados remains a major source market for Jamaican tourism, the Jamaica Tourist Board has said.
And Jamaica’s top tourism official has signaled the intent to attract even more Barbadians to Jamaican shores as part of plans to increase overall numbers from the Caribbean.
Jamaica welcomed 4,686 visitors from Barbados last year, part of an overall 3.5 percent increase in regional arrivals.
Director of Tourism Donovan White told Barbados TODAY that the efforts to get more visitors from Barbados and the rest of the region was a strategic one.
While he could not provide overall figures for visitors from the rest of the Caribbean, he said that so far this year, Jamaica has witnessed an approximately six percent increase in CARICOM arrivals.
White said: “Those numbers are not by chance. They are extremely focused and deliberate. We have deployed new resources on our marketing side to service the region and to service the trade in the region.”
Barbados is Jamaica’s third-highest source market in CARICOM. Trinidad and Tobago dominate the market, followed by The Bahamas.
Jamaica is currently hosting its 29th annual Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX), considered the most important event on that country’s tourism calendar.
The two-day convention is designed to give hundreds of Jamaica’s leading tourism suppliers an opportunity to conduct business with tour operators, travel agents, wholesalers and other buyers from around the world.
White told Barbados TODAY the ongoing discussions with industry players in the region are bearing fruit.
“We have had several meetings and exposition with travel agents and airlines and tour operators across the region.
“There is an increase in airlift into Jamaica from the region, particularly with Caribbean Airlines flying three times per week out of Barbados to Kingston.
“So there is a tremendous amount of development happening on the air capacity side in the Caribbean that is allowing our growth to stay on a very positive trend.”
White said he believed destination Jamaica was attracting more visitors from Barbados and other Caribbean territories because of high-quality events and entertainment.
The Jamaica Tourist Board head added: “So we believe there is also the business of events and entertainment that have fueled some of that interest coming from the region to Jamaica and we are continuing to look at that as part of our whole expansion of the linkages where we are creating viable connection to the events, organizers, and promoters in creating the kind of product that we believe people travel from near and far to experience.”
As of August this year, Jamaica’s stopover visitor arrivals reached some 1.87 million – up 9.1 percent. Tourism earnings topped US$2.39 billion, or 12 percent growth, over the same period last year.
Officials are hoping to welcome a total of 2.68 million visitors this year or 8.4 percent over last year, and are estimating revenues of about US$3.49 billion.
By comparison, Barbados welcomes close to 700,000 stopover visitors each year, placing it in the top ten of countries with the most long-stay visitor arrivals in the Caribbean.
For the first seven months of this year, Barbados welcomed 434,961 stopover visitors, an increase of 21,345 for the same period last year.
Jamaica continues to grapple with the issue of crime through the ongoing limited state of emergency in some parts of the island, including the popular resort city of Montego Bay, but White declared this was not having any impact on the tourism product.
He said: “Our focus is to ensure that we provide a safe Jamaica not just for our visitors coming in but for all Jamaicans.
“The success we have had in terms of ensuring that visitors have the uninterrupted path across the country has remained.
“There is absolutely no interruption with excursions of visitors. In fact, those numbers have actually increased, which means that people are even happier and feeling safer to move about Jamaica.
“We see this is as part of our continued evolution to ensure that in time to come we will continue to have a safe destination.
“And I must remind you that the crimes against visitors [are] still less than 0.01 percent of the total number of visitors.” [email protected]