Tourism and Entertainment Minister of Tourism, Dr Wykeham McNeill (second right), welcomes the two millionth stopover visitors to the island, Alexis Grenier (3rd left) and husband, Craig Greiner (3rd right), from Boston, Massachusetts, USA, after they disembarked the American Airlines flight on which they and other passengers arrived at the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay from Miami, Florida, on Sunday, December 29. Also sharing the occasion are: Tourism Director, John Lynch (left); State Minister for Tourism and Entertainment, Damion Crawford (2nd left); and Montego Bay's Mayor, Councillor Glendon Harris. JIS Photo
By Glenis A. Rose
MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica (JIS) -- Jamaica recorded a landmark achievement on Sunday, when the island welcomed two million stopover visitors for the first time in the tourism industry’s history.
American couple, Alexis and Craig Greiner of Boston, Massachusetts, had the distinction of being the visitors enabling Jamaica to achieve this milestone in 2013, after they and other passengers disembarked American Airlines flight 380, which arrived at the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay from Miami, Florida.
The Greiners were welcomed by an official delegation, headed by Tourism and Entertainment Minister, Dr Wykeham McNeill, who presented them with gifts and other memorabilia to commemorate the occasion.
McNeill was accompanied State Minister Damion Crawford; director general in the ministry, Carolle Guntley; tourism director, John Lynch; Montego Bay’s mayor, Councillor Glendon Harris; and other industry stakeholders and representatives.
Addressing a welcome reception at the airport, McNeill said despite challenges that Jamaica’s tourism industry has encountered, particularly over recent years, stopover arrivals have grown steadily.
He noted that upwards of a 20-year period, since 1955, stopover visitor arrivals had grown four and half times, moving from nearly 87,000 to almost 396,000.
“In the course of time, Jamaica has become an iconic brand in the travel industry, achieving name recognition in almost every nation on earth. Certainly, Jamaica remains high on the aspirational lists of consumers the world over. We feed these aspirations by our marketing efforts, the excellence of which we have consistently earned admiration and recognition,” the minister said.
McNeill pointed out that efforts to increase visitor arrivals were also underpinned by a major thrust to attract investments in the sector, particularly in infrastructure development, focusing on providing additional hotel rooms. This, he added, was complemented by “unprecedented” public sector investment in infrastructure, which produced a burgeoning growth in the country’s hotel room inventory.
“As a result, by 2003 our arrivals had gathered real momentum and flew past the million mark, receiving 1.3 million stopover visitors in that year. Today, ten years later, we mark the arrival of our two millionth stopover visitor, something we achieved in 2003’s cruise arrivals,” he stated.
The minister said Jamaica’s attainment of these milestone achievements, has resulted in the island being established as a major centre for hotel development, “to the extent that our hotel developers have been successful at developing international brands that have driven growth here, at home, and in several other places in the region.”
He said that those developments have stimulated growth in the attractions sector, thus making Jamaica the destination in the region offering the widest variety of attractions and activities for stopover and cruise ship visitors.
McNeill said as Jamaica enters 2014 on the momentum of a highly successful year in tourism recorded in 2013, the ministry will be “moving aggressively” to drive growth in other sectors through stronger and deeper linkages forged between tourism and those industries. Additionally, he assured that the ministry’s efforts to explore and tap into new markets will continue, “while working to build even greater momentum in our traditional markets.”
“Our geographic location, the natural beauty of our island, our rich and vibrant culture, and our colourful history have all been factors in this success. But none more so than the Jamaican people themselves, who have infused Brand Jamaica with warmth, humor and a unique flair for hospitality that remains unchallenged. I, therefore, take this opportunity, as we greet our two millionth stopover visitor, to thank all those who have contributed to this achievement. Let us look forward to building on this achievement to make occasions like this an annual feature of the industry,” McNeill said.