KINGSTON (JIS) Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has commended travel agents and tour operators from around the world for their work in selling Jamaica as a top tourist destination and specifically for contributing to a 5.5% growth in visitor arrivals to the island between January and September this year.
She was delivering the main address at the Sandals Travel Agency Recognition (STAR) Awards 2015 Gala at the Sandals Whitehouse European Village Resort and Spa December 5.
Noting that star status is easily associated with Jamaica, Prime Minister Simpson Miller said, “I thank you, travel agents from around the world, for transforming the vibrant images of Jamaica into a viable business for Sandals and for our country.”
The Jamaica Tourist Board reported that arrivals totaled just over 1.6 million visitors during the nine months period and the country recorded the best September ever in terms of arrivals.
The Prime Minister lauded Sandals for improving its product through multi-million US dollar expansions and upgrading at its resorts in Jamaica and elsewhere in the Caribbean. “It has been fascinating to observe the steady growth and expansion of the Sandals Group not just over the life of the Resort chain, but especially in the past 18 months,” Mrs. Simpson Miller said.
She pointed to the resort chain’s investment of more than US$150 million in recent years to upgrade their properties in Jamaica. The Prime Minister again congratulated Sandals Chief Executive Officer, Adam Stewart on being named the Caribbean Hotelier of the Year for 2015 and commended the resort group on winning, “World Travel Award’s – World’s Leading All-Inclusive Company” for the 19th straight year.
The Prime Minister said Jamaica has secured an additional 60,000 airlift seats out of the United States and United Kingdom, which will come on stream for the 2015/16 Winter Tourist Season, which starts on December 15.
With the increase in airlift, Jamaica is expanding its room stock, she pointed out. “To this end, many new and refurbished rooms are now coming on stream.There continues to be a steady flow of investment in hotels in Jamaica, both by local and international investors. This forms part of a new wave of investment in the tourism sector with some $J64 billion in new investments since 2012.”
The Prime Minister noted that this wave of investment is a show of confidence in Jamaica by both local and international investors; as well as the result of a concerted effort by Government to create an environment that attracts and fosters premium investments in the tourism sector.
She added that, “These investments will fuel the further expansion of the tourism product. These are important developments in our tourism industry, which is vital to the growth of the economy and the progress and prosperity of our Jamaican people.”
She told the Sandals officials and hundreds of travel agents and tour operators that as Jamaica’s partners, they can look forward to the continuing support of the Government of Jamaica: “We will work together to expand the business so that you can earn more money; Sandals can increase its profits; Jamaicans will have jobs; and more foreign exchange will flow into our economy.”
The Prime Minister added that as Jamaica expand its tourism industry, the Government was taking a long term view by promoting public-private partnerships to develop and diversify our tourism product. Other development activities outlined by the Prime Minister included:
Continued investments in attractions and other facilities by the Tourism Enhancement Fund;
Kingston being repositioned as a Creative City offering great insights into the unique Jamaican culture;
Jamaica’s Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park being named earlier this year as a World Heritage Site; and
The development of outstanding heritage sites such as Seville, Falmouth and Port Royal.