Jamaica is fast becoming one of the elite destinations in the Caribbean as over the past two years there were about 3.5 million visitors — two million stopover visitors and 1.5 million from cruise ships annually, more than the population of 2.5 million.
This is according to Tourism and Entertainment Minister Dr. Wykeham McNeil who said that bringing in more people than “our current population is no ordinary feat. and we are not done as yet.”
He said currently there are 2,500 new hotel rooms under construction.
Dr. McNeil said never in Jamaica’s history the island as so many rooms being built simultaneously and that in addition to the current boom adding that there are 7,000 more rooms that are in the pipeline.
He said his mantra as minister of tourism has always been about what is the best interest of the Jamaican people and that every effort will be made to ensure that many Jamaicans are employed during the construction phase of the new rooms that are coming on stream.
The tourism minister said that will all the new rooms, there will be more than 10,000 jobs that will be available and is urging Jamaicans to get themselves certified to meet the demand.
Meanwhile, six Caribbean countries are to benefit from a US$800,000 grant to fund a 36-month long project to develop a “Regional Tourism Health Information, Monitoring and Response System and Standards to Enhance Sustainable Tourism.”
The money is being provided by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) while the project will be executed by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in collaboration with the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) and the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).
Trinidad and Tobago, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Guyana and Jamaica will all benefit from the grant.
Speaking at the signing ceremony at CARPHA’s office in Port of Spain, Trinidad, Trinidad and Tobago Tourism Minister Dr. Shamfa Cudjoe, said the primary objective of the project “is to improve the capacity of participating countries to provide cost-effective solutions” to health, safety and environmental sanitation threats that are impacting on sustainable tourism in the region.
“The project will also build a training and certification program geared as enhancing our capacity in food and environmental safety. This could only redound to the befit of our tourism industry,” Cudjoe said.
The minister cited the increasingly important role food plays in the competitive world of travel, with people seeking out new food experiences while demanding greater levels of food safety.
The agreement was signed between IDB Operations Officer, Julian Belgrave and CARPHA’s director Dr. James Hospedales.