Jamaican PM Portia Simpson-Miller: “Let’s Get Together and Feel Alright”

Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller at Caribbean Travel Marketplace 2014
Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller at Caribbean Travel Marketplace 2014

In a recent speech announcing the official opening of the 2014 Caribbean Travel Marketplace, Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller quoted reggae legend Bob Marley three times. “Let’s get together” was the driving message of the night, as Simpson-Miller urged stakeholders and delegates from 20 countries to consider the benefits of a more integrated Caribbean.

“As small states we in the Caribbean continue to punch above our weight,” Simpson-Miller said, “producing remarkable achievers in diverse fields.” The former Minister of Tourism asked for regional integration in Caribbean marketing strategies, noting the success of such efforts over the past year which resulted in over 2 million stopover visitors for the first time in Jamaica’s history.

“The collaboration between the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment, its various agencies and tourism partners…and the commitment of our industry workers in the private sector has been second to none,” she said.

The new east-west highway along Jamaica’s north coast and easing of visa restrictions in Latin America and Eastern Europe, in conjunction with Delta’s new non-stop weekly flight from Atlanta to Kingston, a new flight from Scandinavia into Montego Bay, and new airlift from Copa and Transaero airlines, has fueled an increase in visitors from Europe, Russia and Latin America.

To meet this challenge, the Ministry of Entertainment and Tourism launched free Russian and Spanish language training classes for frontline industry workers this past November.

A deluge of new international hotel brands such as Melia, Azul’s Sensatori, Blue Diamond’s upscale Royalton, RIU’s Palace, Karisma, Hyatt’s Ziva and Marriott’s Courtyard and the born-again Jewels and Trident Hotel brands, by Sagicor and Portland holdings, respectively, are also helping to bolster Jamaica’s growth. In total, some 840 new or upgraded rooms went onstream last year.

Speaking on Jamaica’s recent growth spurt, which also includes revamps to infrastructure in Ocho Rios, Simpson-Miller remarked, “Growth can be expressed in terms of arrivals, it can also be expressed in terms of yield, and it can be demonstrated in terms of increasing the linkages between the sector and others in the economy.” The town is undergoing upgrades to the cruise terminal, marina promenade and pedestrian areas around the port and town.

A Tourism Linkages Hub that includes the hotel association, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association and the Jamaica Business Development Corporation was also recently established to connect tourism and other sectors of the economy. The hub is but one facet of Simpson-Miller’s plan, which is positioned to spark increased regional collaboration.

“There is enormous potential in our region to supply this sector’s collective needs,” she said. “We believe in the power of the Caribbean brand and its ability to demonstrate the adage that a rising tide lifts all boats.”