MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – As part of our coverage of the annual Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX), Travel Agent attended the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association’s 49th Annual General Meeting Tuesday, in which Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett said Jamaica is “very close” to signing a memorandum of understanding with Cuba to guarantee certain “synergies” between the two countries.
Bartlett said, “if and when” travel to Cuba is legal, it will “present a significant challenge to every English speaking island in the Caribbean.” However, Bartlett added that Jamaica is “taking steps to make sure it is not a challenge but an opportunity.”
In other Jamaica news from the meeting, Jamaica Tourism Board Director John Lynch cited several positives to come out of the country in 2009, a year in which the rest of the Caribbean took a major hit. In fact, Jamaica was the only country in the region to see an increase in 2009 in the form of a 3.6 percent spike.
One of the main reason for that, Lynch pointed out, was Jamaica dramatic increase in airlift. New JetBlue, AirTran and U.S. Airways flights contributed to an increase of nearly 1.3 million seats, which represents a 14 percent increase from 2008. And 2010 is off to a good start as well, Lynch said, noting that Jamaica has seen a 6.3 percent increase from this time last year.
Bartlett, however, sees no reason to sit put— citing the pressure that social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook have put on destinations throughout the world.
“Our main goal is keeping Jamaica as the destination that is on the top of everyone’s mind,” Bartlett said. “Last year we came out as the best destination in the entire Caribbean. Growth is important to achieve but even more important to maintain. With Twitter and Facebook, we now have the customer, for the first time, driving the bottom line.”
Because of this, Bartlett said, more emphasis needs to be put on shopping and green tourism, two topic people love to comment on through social media when visiting a country.