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Jamaica to Welcome 3.5M Visitors This Year, Official Says

MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica (JIS) — Tourism and entertainment minister, Wykeham McNeill, said Jamaica is on track to welcome some 3.5 million visitors this year.

The number, he said, involves a combination of cruise passengers and stopover arrivals.

McNeill was addressing the opening session of the two-day Tourism Outlook Seminar on Thursday at the Montego Bay Convention Center.

He said that stopover arrivals are up more than 3 percent over 2013, and the industry is expected to once again pass the 2 million-visitor mark this year.

“We will have in excess of 1.4 million cruise ship arrivals … so total arrivals to the country could be somewhere around 3.4 to 3.5 million visitors,” he said.

The minister noted that, despite the challenges, the sector continues to perform well.

“Sometimes we don’t realize how good we are doing in certain things … we can always do better, but I think the fact that we are welcoming far more visitors to the island than people who live on the island, is a tremendous success for Jamaica and all the partners in the tourism industry,” he argued.

McNeill noted, however, that the success of the industry should not only be measured in terms of the number of arrivals but also “the social and economic impacts of the industry on the people of Jamaica.”

He said that effort must be made to ensure that the Jamaican people are getting the best benefits from the sector.

“The tourism industry in Jamaica plays a crucial role in our economic and social development … providing direct employment to some 33,000 persons in the accommodations sub-sector and thousands more indirectly,” he noted.

Meanwhile, McNeill hailed the sixth staging of the Tourism Outlook Seminar, which was held under the theme: “Tourism: Enhancing Social and Economic Impact.”

He said the fact that the event has attracted participants from across the world showed its importance and wide impact.

“We have gathered some of the best experts in the industry, who will guide us as we examine in a detailed way, those crucial aspects of tourism, and to look at how we can maximize the benefits of tourism to the Jamaican people,” he said.

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