IT WASN'T EASY, BUT TRAVEL AGENT MANAGED TO GET some of Edmund Bartlett's limited free time recently. The newly appointed Minister of Tourism for Jamaica chatted with us about his long- terms plans for the country—and what travel agents can do to profit from these plans.
Bartlett, who took over as minister about a month ago, told us his main objective is to increase Jamaica's annual visitorship from 1.6 million to five million people by 2012.
"We have to continue to build on our success with tourism," he says. "We have to continue to make tourism Jamaica's engine of growth, its main provider of jobs."
How does he plan on doing this? In the same way he expects to increase the average spending of cruise passengers—development.
Bartlett says the building of water parks and other attractions that appeal to children will help attract more families—a clientele he is keen on boosting.
Families, as well as luxury clients, are expected to increase this fall, Bartlett says, as the Rose Hall Resort & Country Club, formerly the Wyndham Rose Hall Resort and Country Club, expects to open in Montego Bay.
The property will include a Sugar Mill Falls Water Park with a "Lazy River," waterfalls and slides.
Also, Harmony Cove, a 1,400-acre resort development planned for the northern coast of Jamaica, is also expected to open, although no time frame was provided.
Targeting Certain Markets
"We have continued to do very well year after year, but we need to see increases from families, from honeymooners and from the religious traveler," says Bartlett, noting that travel agents still haven't realized that money can be made on booking religious clients or spiritual travelers to Jamaica.
"I'm not sure many travel agents are aware of the opportunity that Jamaica has for these types of clients," he says. "We are very well known for our reggae music, but Jamaica's gospel music is also of a very high quality. The gospel music is enough to encourage the spiritual traveler to come here for yet another reason."
Bartlett also noted that further efforts will be put in place to ensure that travelers are aware that Jamaica is safe, or at least not as dangerous as many people believe it is.
To even further guarantee a traveler's safety, Bartlett says security measures such as the installation of additional surveillance cameras in tourist areas like Negril, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, will be put into place shortly.
Bartlett, however, makes a point about the safety issue. "I want to make it clear that this isn't being done because safety is an issue here," Bartlett says, noting that Jamaica's crime rate is currently .01 percent, "but rather to make our visitors feel even more comfortable, and even safer."
For more information on tourism in Jamaica, visit www.travelagentcentral.com/jamaica