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President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) Nicola Madden-Greig (right) andDeputy Director of Tourism at the Jamaica Tourist Board Jason Hall listen intently as Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister with Responsibility for Sport Natalie Neita-Headley discusses prospects for the growth of sports tourism in Jamaica. The occasion was the official launch of JAMAICA Sport on October 1 at the Courtleigh Hotel & Suites, New Kingston.

JAMAICA Sport launched to develop sports tourism locally

Efforts to position Jamaica as the leading sports tourism destination in the Caribbean got a major boost last Wednesday with the official launch of JAMAICA Sport at the Courtleigh Hotel & Suites, New Kingston.

The technical working group is a spin-off of the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment's Sports Tourism Implementation Committee (STIC), which was established in 2012 to provide the framework to sustainably develop sports tourism as well as leverage local and international sports events to increase visitor arrivals to the island. The STIC will now be replaced by JAMAICA Sport.

Addressing tourism and sports stakeholders, Minister of Tourism and Entertainment Dr Wykeham McNeill said Jamaica has an abundance of assets that need to be harnessed and marketed for the greater good of the country and its people. "Sport is one of those assets," he emphasised.

McNeill pointed out that his ministry "is committed to ensuring that all areas that complement our growing tourism industry are tapped to reap maximum benefits. This forms part of our ongoing effort to diversify our tourism product".

Viable market segment

McNeill emphasised that the potential for developing sports tourism as a viable market segment in Jamaica is tremendous, especially in light of Jamaica's dominance in track and field at successive Olympic Games and World Championships. "Now is the time to capitalise on this potential," he added.

Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Sport Natalie Neita Headley said, "It is the synergies between tourism and sport which will drive us to attain new heights and allow each sector to make greater contributions to Jamaica's GDP." She added that "this is the hallmark of joined-up governance! A true reflection of partnership and collaboration and a proud moment for Jamaica!"

JAMAICA Sport, chaired by businessman and former managing director and CEO of ICC Cricket World Cup 2007, Christopher Dehring, will explore the commercial opportunities provided by sports tourism; leverage Brand Jamaica and sporting events held locally and internationally to ensure that Jamaica maximises marketing and promotional opportunities; and attract additional visitors to our shores.

Sport-tourism destination

In addition, the entity will anchor and execute the objectives of a Major Events Attraction Programme, which was commissioned by Jamaica Trade and Invest and outlines the blueprint for establishing Jamaica as the major sports-tourism destination in the region. It will also spearhead the implementation of the National Sport Policy of Jamaica.

JAMAICA Sport will focus on several key areas including working in tandem with the National Council on Sport to develop mechanisms to bid on or host strategically important sporting events. It will focus, too, on developing a methodology and system to identify and select indigenous sporting events to be endorsed and facilitated by JAMAICA Sport with the aim of boosting tourist arrivals and raising the stature of Jamaican athletes and Jamaica as a major sporting destination in the region.

In endorsing JAMAICA Sport, president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA), Nicola Madden-Greig, described sports tourism as a natural fit for Jamaica. "It leverages all our built facilities, our long proven talents in the field, the expertise of our support staff who have honed their skills locally, regionally and internationally, and provides the opportunity for visitors to Jamaica to enhance their vacation experience either as a participant and/or spectator," the JHTA president said.

In declaring JAMAICA Sport officially open for business, Dehring emphasised that "content is king, sports is the king of content, and Jamaica is the king of sports". 

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