“Tourism is God’s gift to Jamaica. It’s our oil,” Prime Minister Andrew Holness told billionaire chairman of world leading cruise company, Carnival Corporation, Micky Arison, at their meeting in Miami, Florida, on Thursday.
Holness was in the United States for a series of meetings with cruise bosses including Arison, the son of Carnival Corporation’s co-founder and owner of the Miami Heat basketball team since 1995.
Also attending the meeting was Adam Goldstein, president of Royal Caribbean Cruises; Richard Sasso, chairman of MSC Cruises; and other high-ranking global cruise industry officials.
The Jamaican prime minister constantly highlighted his economic growth programme, which focuses on a jobs and prosperity agenda, during the meetings and encouraged investors to move quickly on their respective development projects.
The cruise industry leaders pointed to a number of long-standing issues affecting more substantial growth in Jamaica’s tourism, and offered several remedies, according to Delano Seiveright, senior adviser to Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett, who accompanied Holness on the trip.
“The cruise leaders, however, stated just how impressed they were that the prime minister and the tourism minister took the time to sit down with them inside the company’s boardroom in Miami to discuss the issues,” Seiveright said.
He also pointed out that the trip was historic, because it was the first visit to Carnival’s offices by a Jamaican prime minister to discuss issues affecting growth in cruises to Jamaica, although the company had been cruising to Jamaica since the 1970s.
The visit came on the heels of a whirlwind tour and generally positive news surrounding Jamaica’s tourism industry in recent weeks.
Tourism industry players are hopeful that with Bartlett being awarded the prestigious 2016 World Travel Award for Outstanding Services to Travel in the Maldives earlier this month at the World Travel Awards, Jamaica’s growing position as a premier international tourism destination with huge potential for growth and development will significantly boost the local industry.
Seiveright noted that the general view was that, despite the challenges, Jamaica’s tourism industry has the greatest potential for significantly expanding the local economy and delivering on the administration’s prosperity agenda.
Up to October 2016, Jamaica recorded earnings of US$2.06 billion, representing an increase of 5.7 per cent over the amount earned for the same period last year.
The island also registered an increase of 5.1 per cent in visitor arrivals over the same period last year, with 3,100, 235 total visitors. There was also growth in both arrivals and earnings, despite Jamaica suffering a loss of over 8,000 visitors during the passage of Hurricane Matthew.
“Just less than a month ago the Harmony of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship with 6,400 passengers and a crew of 2,150 docked in Falmouth, Trelawny, and another large cruise ship docked in Kingston, and we are looking at strong growth in cruise visitors this year and a very promising year next year too,” Seiveright stated.
He also pointed out that Bartlett had set aggressive targets for the ministry and its agencies, which are all mandated to ensuring growth is achieved.
The primary goals are to secure five million visitors in five years, generating US$5 billion in tourism earnings and increasing the total direct jobs to 125,000, with no less than 15,000 new rooms added.
He added that the Ministry’s overarching priorities are set around five pillars and five networks aimed at broadening the reach of tourism, and ultimately spreading the benefits to many more Jamaicans.
The pillars are: tapping into new markets; developing new products; promoting investment; building new partnerships, and developing human capital.
Underpinning these five pillars of growth, are five networks which incorporate several key sectors, that will better integrate tourism with the wider economy, and help to spread the benefits among Jamaicans.
The networks are: gastronomy, health and wellness, sports and entertainment, shopping, and knowledge.
Prime Minister Holness and his team returned to Jamaica from Florida yesterday.