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2005-05-26 16:34:00
Embassy Kingston
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						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KINGSTON 001346 



E.O. 12958: N/A




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary: On May 11, Director of Caribbean Affairs Brian
Nichols and Econoff met with Paul E. Pennicook, Director of
Tourism at the Jamaica Tourist Board, to discuss the impact
of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) on
Jamaica's tourism industry, as well as the general prospects
for Jamaican tourism development in the future. End Summary.

2. On May 11, Brian Nichols, Director for Caribbean Affairs,
accompanied by Econoff met with Jamaica's Director of
Tourism, Paul E. Pennicook to discuss the ramification of the
Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). Pennicook began
by outlining Jamaica's development as a tourist destination.
Having begun as a small "enclave" destination with few
attractions outside of the walled resorts, it now provides
over 26,000 rooms and considers the mass-market traveler as
an important segment of its customer base. In 2004, seventy
percent of Jamaica's 1.5 million stopover visitors were from
the United States, more than half of whom traveled without
passports. Pennicook stated that the imposition of the new
requirement for Americans to have passports to travel to the
Caribbean as of January 1, 2006, will have a negative impact
on arrivals, driving visitors to alternative destinations
such as the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Cancun,
Mexico. The Tourist Board projects a twenty percent decrease
in the number of American tourists in 2006, due to the extra
hassle of obtaining travel documents. In order to achieve a
more level playing field and avoid this "amazingly negative
impact", Pennicook expressed his desire to have Caribbean
implementation of the WHTI pushed back to December 2006, the
same time as it will take effect for Cancun, or at least to
June 2006, which would put implementation past the peak of
the 2005-2006 tourism season.

3. Nichols responded that the WHTI implementation schedule
was not intended to harm Caribbean tourism interests, but was
designed with an appreciation for workflow management. Since
more Americans travel to Mexico than to the Caribbean, it
will take longer to issue the requisite number of passports
to travelers bound for destinations there. He said that the

requirements of the WHTI would be widely publicized in the
United States, and that passport applications would be
accepted at post offices, libraries and state and local
government offices. The first publicity efforts were begun
in late March 2005. Nichols encouraged Pennicook to place
links on Jamaican tourism websites that led to the State
Department's WHTI information page at
He also promised to explore provision of WHTI promotional
materials for Jamaican immigration and customs officials and
general public education, which the U.S. was doing in the
Bahamas. In response to Pennicook's expressed fears that
tour operators would direct customers away from countries
that require passports, Nichols recommended that the Tourism
Board work with the operators to enable them to become
distribution points for information on how to get passports.

4. Nichols also suggested that the timeline for WHTI
implementation was not set in stone,but rather the reason for
the comment period for the proposed new regulation. He
recalled that Bahamian tourism officials had suggested an
alternative to the regional plan would be a "mode of travel"
benchmark, where all air travelers would be required to have
passports on one date, and travelers using land routes would
have to meet the requirement at a later date. Pennicook
stated that he liked this idea better, since most American
visitors to Cancun arrive by air, and this would put them on
a level playing field with Jamaica and the rest of the
Caribbean. Nichols underscored that while the USG would
consider such proposals, it was essential that Jamaica work
to educate its tourism customers on the issue in preparation
for a December 31, 2005 implementation.

5. Pennicook described some of the problems Jamaica has
experienced at its ports of entry. He said that the
resumption of an immigration check on outbound passengers has
been disastrous for people-flow, and asked if the WHTI would
improve things. Nichols responded that the new passports
would all be machine readable, and would represent a great
improvement in both speed and security over birth
certificates and assorted photo IDs.

6. Shifting gears to Cuba's potential future impact on
tourism, Pennicook stated the official Jamaican position is
that they expect many Americans to go to Cuba out of
curiosity, but that Jamaica's traditional customers will
return in subsequent years having seen that the Cuban tourism
infrastructure is inferior to that in Jamaica. Nichols
agreed, stating that Cuba presently serves the European
tourism market, and that most of its tourism flows will grow
from there, rather than from the United States.

7. Pennicook stated that Jamaica had 1.4 million visitors in
2004, and had set a target of 1.52 million in 2005. The
industry slumped substantially in 2001 and 2002, following
9/11, but rebounded in 2003, delivering the best year to
date. Even with the impact of the hurricane season in 2004,
the industry experienced five percent growth. The Tourism
Board has targeted eight percent growth for the 2005-2006
season, mostly due to new room construction and investment
from Europe. He further stated that they will begin
targeting the Latin American market again, after several
decades of having essentially abandoned that sector.

8. On the subject of the introduction of casino gambling
into the island, Pennicook stated that the official GOJ
position was "slowly evolving" towards acceptance. He said
that it will probably be legalized after the current Prime
Minister leaves office. Personally, he said, he would fix
the laws and introduce gaming "yesterday". He cautioned that
casinos would not be a magic pill to fix Jamaica's economy,
but will substantially extend the diversity of Jamaica's
tourism product, and serve as the nucleus for new nighttime
attractions, the quality and quantity of which are sorely
lacking at present. Though it will most likely not
significantly increase the number of arrivals on the island,
according to Pennicook, it should increase the amount that
existing visitors spend during their stay.

9. Pennicook commented that recent Chinese interest in
Jamaica indicates the possibility of a new surge in tourist
arrivals from Asia. However, he says that it is in the early
stages as yet, and will not become significant overnight.
Most Chinese visitors will come as large tour groups under
strict guidelines. Getting visas for Chinese visitors is a
logistical hassle, since Jamaican consular representation in
China is presently miniscule. (Note: Jamaica recently named
its first resident Ambassador to China, Wayne McCook, who
will take up his post in the next few months. McCook is
currently the acting Under Secretary in the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. End note.) Pennicook
also commented that the lack of direct air links will limit
the volume significantly, noting that Japanese tourism in
Jamaica surged during the Atlanta Olympics when Air Jamaica
coordinated its schedule to connect with direct flights
coming from Japan, but then fell off to almost nothing once
the Olympics ended and JAL stopped flying that route.

10. Comment: The meeting between Nichols and Pennicook was
cordial. Pennicook explained that his problems were with the
timing of the WHTI enforcement in the Caribbean, not with the
reasons for its implementation. Pennicook's primary concern
was that tourists would choose to avoid getting a passport
and take their business to Cancun, Mexico, Puerto Rico or the
U.S. Virgin Islands, none of which will require U.S.
travelers to have passports when the WHTI first takes effect
in Jamaica. Pennicook appeared eager to work with the USG to
smooth out the implementation in the region, but repeatedly
requested that the timing of the start date be harmonized
with that of their direct competitors. End comment.

11. This message was cleared by WHA/CAR Director Nichols.