Jamaica’s newly appointed minister of tourism and entertainment, Dr Wykeham McNeill has his work cut out for him this year, as Jamaica gears up for its 50th anniversary of independence.
The Caribbean island officially marks 50 years of independence on August 6, 2012, as Jamaicans around the world are expected to raise the Jamaican flag in the midst of major celebrations.
During the same week, the London Olympics 2012 will host the highly anticipated athletics in which triple Olympic champion Usain Bolt will be a star attraction.
The Jamaican sprinter has already crept into the spotlight in the UK, fronting a multi-million campaign to promote Virgin’s latest broadband service, in a series of quirky television adverts in which Bolt mimics Richard Branson.
BTN caught up with Dr Wykeham McNeill just two weeks after his appointment, to find out exactly what he has planned for Jamaica during this milestone year. In 2011, Jamaica was named World’s Leading Honeymoon Destination, Caribbean’s Leading Destination, Caribbean’s Leading Sports Tourism Destination and Caribbean’s Leading Tourist Board by the World Travel Awards.
BTN: Following your recent appointment as Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, how have you found it?
WM: Quite busy. I was sworn in two weeks ago and it’s been a busy two weeks. I’ve spent a lot of time getting acclimatised, although this is not the first time I’ve been in the ministry as I served in the Ministry for 2002 – 2007 and now I’m back
BTN: Could you tell us how the recent expansion of the ministry to include entertainment will impact on the ground?
WM: Well it’s an expanded ministry – more work – but we’re very excited about it. It’s not the first time the ministry has been twinned with entertainment. In the early 2000s, entertainment was part of the ministry, so it is an assignment that has come back and we’re really excited about it.
What we’re really looking at is that Jamaica is well known for its music looking at music and the whole entertainment industry. The ministry is responsible for implementing the framework to ensure the development of this and it is a good thing because of the synergies between tourism and entertainment.
BTN: Jamaica has been robust under the leadership of Bartlett during difficult times. Will there be changes under your leadership in the next 12 months?
WM: There will be changes – we are looking at the advertising – we have a good campaign at the moment and the tourist board are doing good work , but some work needs to take place with the infrastructure so we are also looking at that.
BTN: Are you looking at new and emerging markets?
WM: We are also looking across all traditional markets – USA, Canada, the UK and Europe but we are also looking into other markets such as Lating America and some of the other emerging markets. You have to look at them as well as the airlift and the marketing behind the gateways and some of the other impediments that exist such as visa restrictions. We are trying to clear all the paths to ensure that we can really get into these markets.
BTN: We have the Olympics coming up in the UK, with Bolt being a star attraction, is this something you are looking forward to?
WM: Absolutely. All moons come together. As you know it is our 50th anniversary of independence so we are looking at what can be done this year because Jamaica will be on the front page so we are looking at how we can showcase Jamaica in the best and most positive way possible.