Jamaica banking on tourists

Pleased with its 2005-2006-winter tourist season advertising campaign, the Jamaica Tourist Board expects that this investment will translate into double-digit growth in stopover arrivals over last year.

“We are looking forward to a very good season,” Paul Pennicook, director of tourism at the JTB, told The Gleaner Wednesday. “We are projecting at least a 10-11 per cent growth in stopover (arrivals), we have done our work.”

He continued: “We are doing our promotional activities on the ground. We have been doing our regular winter television advertising in the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as online and cinema advertising.”

Mr. Pennicook explained that more than US$2.9 million (J$179.8 million) has been budgeted for advertising and it is expected that hotel and tourism interests will move to take advantage of a possible boom. However, he expressed apprehension that current crime levels and poor infrastructure are black spots that have the potential to overshadow gains.

“I do have a concern about the high crime rate. I am also concerned about infrastructure and our ability to handle the influx of business that is expected,” he said.

He contended that infrastructure rehabilitation work in resort areas need to be fast-tracked and hoped that attractions will be ready in time to profit from the season.

“We need to have it all ready. There is some work going on in the resort areas. They have been working on the Ocho Rios to Montego Bay leg of the North Coast Highway but the work needs to move quickly.”

Horace Peterkin, president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, was also optimistic but cited similar concerns about infrastructure and crime. Mr. Peterkin noted that the long wait time for inbound and outbound immigration processing was intolerable.

“The authorities must work to alleviate the amount of time visitors spend in these lines because it detracts from the destination. The same thing goes for the traffic snarls. Visitors will simply not come back if they cannot get to enjoy their vacation.”

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