(Jamaica Observer) TOURISM and Entertainment Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill says Jamaica recorded a five per cent increase in overall visitor arrivals for the 2014/15 winter tourist season over the corresponding period last year.
Speaking at the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association’s (JHTA) 54th annual general meeting and convention at Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa in Montego Bay on Saturday, Dr McNeill said Jamaica recorded a 9.1 per cent increase in stopover arrivals from the United States, with 445,000 visitors coming from that country between January and April 2015.
This was 37,000 more than the corresponding period in 2014.
The minister said 61,670 visitors arrived from the United Kingdom, up from 48,363 last year, representing a 27.5 per cent increase, and described this as a “marked improvement over previous years.”
He further said that cruise ship passenger arrivals increased by 11.2 per cent for the period under review, compared to 2014.
The minister attributed these outturns to renewed and significant growth in the United States, Jamaica’s largest source market, as well as the United Kingdom and Europe.
Dr McNeill said based on these figures, Jamaica should record a positive 2015 summer tourist season, with expectations high for the autumn, and 2015/16 winter periods, based on the continual upward trend in visitor arrivals.
“The sector continues to perform well, even with the challenges we are having with the harsh (global) economic environment. We are building on the successes of 2014, which was, again, another record year for Jamaica in which we broke the two million (stopover arrivals) mark again,” he pointed out.
Dr McNeill said the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) is already promoting the 2015 autumn, and 2015/16 winter tourist seasons, while advising of plans for the island to have a continuous, year-round tourist season without the traditional breaks.
He also commended the JHTA on its role in and contribution to Jamaica’s achievement of its tourism performance targets, noting that the public/private partnership facilitating this “is now bearing fruits”.
“A large part of the work that goes into bringing those arrivals to Jamaica is done by the people in this room, and I want to thank each and every one of you,” he added.
Meanwhile, Tourism Director Paul Pennicook in his presentation on the topic: ‘The Changing Face of Travel and Tourism’, urged industry stakeholders, particularly hoteliers, to become more responsive to market changes.
“What we are seeing in 2015 is a travel industry that is very different from the industry of a few years ago. As stakeholders, we need to embrace these challenges and determine how best to adjust our strategies and mindsets to continue to grow market shares,” he stated.
During its awards luncheon, the JHTA recognised a number of industry stakeholders, deemed to have distinguished themselves over the past year.
Notable among these was Sandals Resorts International chief executive officer and JHTA second vice president, Adam Stewart, who was named 2014/15 Hotelier of the Year.
Other awardees included: Hotel Employee of the Year, Earl Cummings, Sandals Royal Caribbean; Hotel Manager/Supervisor of the Year, Marcia Morris, Jamaica Pegasus Hotel; and Tourism Employee of the Year, Christopher Bailey, Appleton Estate Rum Tour.
The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to tourism industry stalwart, Joyce Wright of Rondel Village in Negril, while the Abe Issa Award for Excellence went to Olympian, Alia Atkinson.
The International Airline Award was copped by Jet Blue; the Allied Members Service Awards, by purveyor, J Wray and Nephew/Campari; Local Transportation — Tropical Tours; and Attraction — Dolphin Cove.