Jamaica is one the most globally recognized brand in the world. According to the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) the island welcomed 756,463 visitors – 445,105 of which originated from the U.S.; 184,237 from Canada; and 95,177 from Europe. The “Exploring and Contributing to Jamaica’s Tourism Product,” session provides an opportunity to the diaspora to gain first hand knowledge about future plans for industry expansion and opportunities.
Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Dr. Wykeham McNeill said, “There are 2.5 million people living in Jamaica and three million that live outside of Jamaica and that nearly six million people provide tremendous opportunities for tourism, investment, knowledge transfer and networking.” Potential opportunity lies within the following areas: investment in tourism infrastructure with an emphasis on sports and health tourism, music, entertainment and events, and growing the diaspora business market.
Jamaica is not all just about beaches, the vibes island can also provide quality healthcare. Jamaica ranked second in the category of attractiveness in the 2014 Medical Tourism Index (MTI) but ranked 14 overall. The Medical Tourism index grades countries on destination attractiveness and medical tourism costs; facility and services are graded on quality care, reputation, internationalization and accreditation and patients’ experience.
Manager at Jamaica Promotions Corporation, Mrs. Carol Straw stated that Jamaica already has the necessary things in place to facilitate the growth of medical tourism like its close proximity to major markets, great air, sea and road connectivity and a have great telecommunications and IT infrastructure that compares with any first world country. “In the event of a [natural] disaster Jamaica will not be negatively impacted to a great degree because of [telecommunications] redundancies because we will be able to stay in contact with the world. Jamaica sees an opportunity for investment in medical tourism because it believes that can satisfy various needs in the market. Medical tourism is worth $50 billion and wellness is estimated at $106 billion. “Jamaica’s healthcare professionals are in high demand overseas.” Medical care provides many opportunities such as dentistry, sports medicine and medical marijuana.
Sports tourism allows Jamaica to tap into the country’s love of sports and sports culture to leverage commercial opportunities and increase Jamaica’s visibility. The Jamaica Sport, a joint committee headed by Chris Dehring was created to increase the number of sporting events around the island with an aim to drive visitor arrivals. Sport and wellness has blossomed.
Although Jamaica is known for its sprinters, long distance running has become very popular. “Every weekend that you are here if you can’t get to run a 5K, something is wrong,” said Nicola Madden-Greig, president, Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association (JTHA) “We have one every weekend sometimes two or three times in the same weekend.” JTHA stressed the need for the country to expand its sporting reach beyond sprinting and the country has responded. Sporting tourism is one of the fastest growing niche segments. “Sports tourism accounts for 25 percent of the countries arrivals,” said Madden-Greig. Jamaica offers several sporting events both traditional (track & field and cricket) and non-traditional (tennis, diving, surfing, and bmx biking). Sporting events have the potential to transform a city.”
The Manley Marathon started in 2003 with 3,000 participants and has grown to 25,000 in the 2015, said Madden-Greig. These are areas that keep on growing. Participants come from all over the states and 87 countries.
Jamaica is always also buzzing with excitement. There are always endless things to do and places to go. This makes the island the perfect place to expand music and entertainment tourism. One of the country’s biggest events Dream Weekend in August which captures 20,000 patrons, 65 percent which travel from overseas U.S., UK, Canada, Africa and Norway. “These types of events make our shores a prime tourism destination,” said Madden-Greig. As the birthplace of reggae, music festivals are a big business and drive people to our shores. A new type of non-traditional music genre called electronic dance music (EDM) has grown into $6.2 billion industry. Jamaica has adapted to this new music taste and events have popped up, Rio Electric Butterfly Music Festival and Electric Yard hosted by Major Lazer.
Although Jamaica adapts to various trends in the market, Jamaica strives to maintain its DNA. There are various cultural events that highlight the food and culture of the island. There will always be tourist that flock to Jamaica’s shores in droves to soak up all the country has to offer. However, there is a narrower objective to engage the diaspora in a more meaningful way and for them not to be just returning visitors but long-term investors into various areas. Jamaica provides a world of opportunities for the diaspora to invest in relevant and fast growing areas.