“We are ramping up efforts to boost compliance with guidelines within the sector. We have had constant consultations and will be amending the JTB Act to make it more effective, by introducing stiffer penalties and increased fines,” Dr. McNeill said.
The Minister was addressing the 54th Annual General Meeting and Convention of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), at the Hilton Rose Hall Hotel and Spa, in Montego Bay, on June 6.
“While we seek to grow our tourism sector, we also have to regulate the industry. While most of you here are regulated there are many others who refuse to be compliant and who place themselves, the industry and Brand Jamaica at significant risk,” Dr. McNeill said.
He told the industry leaders that he will be taking recommendations to Cabinet for drafting instructions within the next three months.
“The onus is on each and every player in the sector to comply with the relevant guidelines. Compliance with the required standards is very important to the success of the sector, as it improves the overall quality of our tourism product,” the Minister said.
In the meantime, Dr. McNeill said Jamaica recorded a five per cent increase in overall visitor arrivals for the 2014/15 winter tourist season over the corresponding period last year.
In addition, Jamaica recorded a 9.1 per cent increase in stopover arrivals from the United States, with 445,000 visitors coming from that country between January and April 2015. This was 37,000 more than the corresponding period in 2014.
The minister said 61,670 visitors arrived from the United Kingdom, up from 48,363 last year, representing a 27.5 per cent increase, and described this as a "marked improvement over previous years."
He further said that cruise ship passenger arrivals increased by 11.2 per cent for the period under review, compared to 2014.
The minister attributed these outturns to renewed and significant growth in the United States, Jamaica's largest source market, as well as the United Kingdom and Europe.
Dr McNeill said based on these figures, Jamaica should record a positive 2015 summer tourist season, with expectations high for the autumn, and 2015/16 winter periods, based on the continual upward trend in visitor arrivals.
"The sector continues to perform well, even with the challenges we are having with the harsh (global) economic environment. We are building on the successes of 2014, which was, again, another record year for Jamaica in which we broke the two million (stopover arrivals) mark again," he pointed out.
Dr McNeill said the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) is already promoting the 2015 autumn, and 2015/16 winter tourist seasons, while advising of plans for the island to have a continuous, year-round tourist season without the traditional breaks.
He also commended the JHTA on its role in and contribution to Jamaica's achievement of its tourism performance targets, noting that the public/private partnership facilitating this "is now bearing fruits".
"A large part of the work that goes into bringing those arrivals to Jamaica is done by the people in this room, and I want to thank each and every one of you," he added.
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