Jamaica is ready to embrace a growing number of Chinese visitors encouraged by a newly implemented visa-free policy, the visiting Jamaican Minister of Tourism and Entertainment said on Thursday.
"In the past, Chinese nationals had to apply for a visa from the Jamaican embassy in Beijing if they wanted to visit our country, but now we have cleared the hurdles," said 57-year-old Wykeham McNeill, who is on a weeklong trip in China till Saturday.
In late February, the Jamaican parliament approved a new policy, which allows Chinese nationals to visit the island country as tourists for up to 30 days without a visa.
"This allows people from anywhere in China to visit Jamaica easily," McNeill said, noting that China is the first country Jamaica is targeting with such a policy, given the long history between the countries and the importance of China as an outbound tourist market.
"Even a small percentage of the so many Chinese tourists would be very good for Jamaica," he said.
Jamaica attracts more than 2 million tourists annually and tourism contributes more than $1.5 billion to the economy each year. However, only about 2,000 Chinese visitors traveled to the Caribbean country last year.
"Jamaica depends on tourism heavily for its economy. If we want people to visit our island, we should make it as easy as possible," McNeill said, adding that his delegation has engaged in informative talks with airlines, tour operators and travel agents in China to promote Jamaica.
Apart from Jamaica's sunshine and beaches, McNeill recommended that tourists "must climb" Dunn's River Falls, "must taste" Blue Mountain coffee and "must listen" to Bob Marley's reggae music.
"Jamaica is an ethnically and culturally diverse country, a melting pot," McNeill said. "Interestingly, each of different nationalities have retained many of their customs through generations and spread their culture all over our country."
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