Jamaica's Director of Tourism, John Lynch, and Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, addressed JAPEX today
Travel Agent began its coverage of the annual Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX) Monday morning when we covered the show's first press conference hosted by the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association (JHTA) at the Ritz-Carlton Golf & Spa Resort in Montego Bay.
The nearly three-hour conference kicked off with an address by JHTA President Wayne Cummings who announced a new proposal to change the length of licenses administered to JHTA members. Currently, hotel members of the JHTA have "life long" licenses but Cummings announced a new proposal that would make the license valid for a "few years" rather than have a zero expiration date. Cummings said the reason for the proposal was because certain hotels refuse to abide by certain guidelines handed out by both the JHTA and Jamaica's health department. Cummings says the JHTA doesn't condone "rogue" behavior and implied that these hotels will not be given a license renewal unless they comply with the JHTA's rules and regulations. Without a license, these hotels would eventually be extinct since being a member of the JHTA is essential when it comes to revenue sharing and marketing. No date was given as to when the new proposal would be voted on.
Bartlett Addresses Safety, Hijack Attempt
You have to hand it to the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB). They don't try to sweep anything under the rug. If there is negative publicity, they will address it before the media addresses on its own. And such was the case Monday morning when both JTB Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett and Director John Lynch addressed such edgy topics as the recent hijack attempt at Jamaica's Sangster International Airport and the ongoing H1NI influenza scare in Mexico. Barlett told JAPEX attendees that Jamaica has fought long and hard to erase the stigma attached to it that it is an unsafe destination. And about a month ago, some nut who couldn't wait to get to Cuba allegedly attempted to hijack a plan at Jamaica's main airport, pouring fuel to the fire to the unfair, and false, belief that Jamaica is an unsafe tourist destination.
Side note: Like Mexico, much of Jamaica's crimes have not included tourists. But this last incident went down in an airport, causing many tourists to second guess the safety of the country. But when you address a problem as quickly and efficiently as the JTB has, the problem quickly goes away.
"We were able to deal with it fairly well and deal with it with minimum fallout in the market place," Bartlett says. The minister also noted that roughly $40 million will be invested to beef up traffic and safety in Montego Bay.
Lynch: Jamaica's 'Spike' From Swine Flu Scare is Temporary
Jamaica is not going to smile publicly about this, but the recent H1N1 flu scare in Mexico has benefited the country's tourism numbers. Jamaica, in fact, as Travel Agent reported a few weeks ago, is the number one destination that U.S. travelers are choosing as their alternatives to Mexico after the H1N1 flu news first broke. Hawaii and Florida are also in the top three.
"Jamaica may benefit, but this can be a very temporary spike," Lynch says. "(The influenza scare) was so close to the region that it places additional pressure on the industry."
Meanwhile, the JTB is reporting a whopping 16 percent increase in arrivals from this time last year. The impressive increase for the first 11 days of May was announced by Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett during a roundtable discussion at JAPEX.
"There are a lot of negatives (in the tourism industry lately)," Bartlett said during the discussion at the Sugar Mill, a restaurant at the Half Moon resort. "But we are showing that we can turn some of these negatives into positives."
Legislation to Allow Gaming in Jamaica Currently Being Drafted
Bartlett told members of the media that legislation that would allow gaming in Jamaica is currently being drafted and is expected to pass within the next few weeks. Once it does, two licenses for casinos will be awarded to the Palmyra, A Solis Resort & Spa and the Harmony Cove resort, both in Montego Bay. Bartlett told Travel Agent a while back that three more licenses will be handed out after the first two are finalized.
Cummings Re-Elected As JHTA President
JTB Director John Lynch told media that Wayne Cummings was re-elected Monday as the president of the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association. Cummings first took office in 2007.