Jamaica woos European tourists

Jamaica has embarked on a new drive to drum up business from Europe’s lucrative tourist market.

Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett was among government officials, hoteliers, aviation experts and other industry stakeholders who attended the just-concluded ITB Berlin conference – the world’s largest travel fair.

Bartlett said the European market could mean big business for Jamaica.

“Strong currency, strong economies but, more importantly, long holidays. They get three-to six-week holidays, so they can come and spend some time with us and to provide the sort of wider distribution of the dollar that we need to reach the smaller people in the communities and the small entrepreneurs in Jamaica who provide the value-added services.

“So, this market is important to us; it’s very important because it drives our smaller properties.”

The tourism minister is seeking to ramp up numbers to hit the Golding administration goal of five million visitors in 2015. Jamaica saw 1.7 million stopover arrivals last year, a 1.3 per cent increase over 2006’s statistics. Over 1.17 million cruise-ship arrivals were recorded in 2007, an 11.8 per cent plunge from the previous year.

Bartlett told the Caribbean Media Corporation that his delegation held talks with airline operators aimed at opening up routes between Europe and Jamaica.

“We have access, great access, to the gateways in North America, but we do have some issues in Europe, and Europe is a growth market for us. And so, we have to move to provide the kind of support to the tour operators for more charters to come in and also to look at scheduling traffic, coming to Jamaica as well,” the minister added.

He said he spoke to the airline officials in London as well as in mainland Europe.

“Germany is very import to us now. This is one of the growth areas and Spain definitely, and the UK of course. So, Europe, for us, is a big push and … the team, we’re all here making sure that we tidy up the arrangements that have to be made to drive the winter of 2008/2009 and beyond.”

Projections for the northern Caribbean island suggest an increase in the number of tourists from Spain, especially as Spanish hoteliers build out infrastructure here. The lion’s share – about 70 per cent – of visitors to Jamaica come from the North American market.

More than 10,000 exhibitors sold their products at the ITB International Tourism Fair, which attracts hundreds of visitors from around the world each year.

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