Jamaica set for tourism surge

Jamaica is set for a record boom in tourism this year thanks to the triple effects of increased capacity, renewed interest from Britain’s Jamaican Diaspora and a bumper investment programme in the island’s roads, hotels and airports, according to Jamaica’s tourism chiefs. Industry and tourism minister Aloun N’Dombet Assamba predicted “one of our best winter tourism seasons ever” following a 24% leap in visitor arrivals during November 2005. Investment in tourism will bring thousands of new hotel rooms on stream in the next 12 months as part of a 40% rise in capacity planned by 2010. Visitors will find flying into Jamaica and travelling around the island a much smoother experience as a result of the investment drive, explained the minister. “The programme of expansion and upgrading at both international airports will improve the facilities to cope with the increased volume of travellers,” she said. Many of these travellers are returning to Jamaica for the first time in years, spurred on by renewed interest in the island’s far-flung overseas community. In the UK alone there are now several regional groups who were formed as a result of Jamaican Prime Minister Hon PJ Patterson’s launch of the global Jamaican Diaspora at an international conference in Kingston last year. With improving air links and greater capacity in both flights and hotel rooms coming on stream during 2006, there are strong expectations that the next 12 months may set record figures for arrivals and stopovers on top of the strong year-end numbers achieved in 2005. “Destination Jamaica is already seeing increased visitor numbers, by air and by sea, with a significant rise in cruise ship visitors, thanks to enhanced capacity in a number of key resort areas and improvements in road links,” noted the Jamaica Tourist Board’s director of tourism Paul Pennicook. He added that investment in infrastructure, supported by a number of marketing initiatives that included participation in trade shows in North America and Europe, press trips from Europe and travel agent fly-ins were elements that would result in significant growth for the destination in 2006.

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