Despite the global economic crisis, Jamaican Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett says a record number of Canadian tourists are expected to visit Jamaica this winter.

“Canada is our fastest growing market,” the Jamaican Information Service (JIS) quoted Bartlett as saying in Toronto.

“Two years ago, the Canadian market was providing around 150,000 stopover visitors and for this year we are looking at close to 300,000, which represents a 28 percent increase over last year,” he added.

Bartlett recently visited Canada to thank travel partners for helping to make Canada the fastest growing market for Jamaica.

He met with some 300 travel agents, airline officials and four operators in Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg, cities that have shown encouraging growth in recent times.

Pointing to several factors that have contributed to this positive news, Bartlett referred to the “new and exciting” accommodations in the market place, the “aggressive marketing” by hoteliers and the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) and the increase in airlift from Canada.

He said that at present, there are close to 180,000 available airline seats from Canada to Jamaica with an expected increase this year of 20,00, mainly from the Western Provinces of Canada.

For the upcoming winter season, the minister said there would be direct flights from Winnipeg Vancouver and Calgary into Montego Bay.

“We are satisfied with the infrastructure that is in place and we are relying on Canada to be the bedrock of the growth projection for next year,” he said.

Jamaica is one of the few Caribbean tourist destinations that has done relatively well during this frustrating recession that has led to a decrease in visitor arrivals for the region.