Jamaican Leaders See Major Changes

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Damion Crawford, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment, spoke about how Jamaica is working to attract more millennials.
Damion Crawford, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment, spoke about how Jamaica is working to attract more millennials.

During the Jamaican Product Exchange (JAPEX), one of the main topics was how Jamaican tourism leaders see major changes happening in travel to the island—from adventure travel, new hotel brands, millennials, and even what is happening with marijuana tourism. Here’s what you need to know.

Fulfilling “the psychometric desires of potential travelers looking to go beyond sun, sea, and sand” is now a primary mission of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, said JHTA president, Nicola Madden-Greig, during the opening ceremony of the Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX). The Jamaican tourism industry, she declared, aims to “create memorable and even life-changing experiences.”

No matter that non-Jamaican hotel brands (e.g. Hyatt, Melia, Palace, Royalton, etc.) are setting up shop on this island: Both homegrown and new hotels, including all-inclusive properites, have realized the importance of experiencing Jamaica beyond the resort gates. (Look for more on that later this week right here on recommend.com.)

Adventure and Cultural Tourism
“For some of our guests there is a shift from being an observer to being a participant, and with this comes a concerted effort to be a part of Jamaica,” said Madden-Greig. Thus, the growth of voluntourism, meetings and conventions, and adventure, cultural, culinary, health and wellness, sports, and urban tourism. What’s more, she added, with the opening up of the north-south highway, the resort areas of the south coast and Port Antonio, Kingston, and the majestic Blue Mountains, all of which epitomize Jamaica’s diversity, are more accessible.

“The more visitors interact with Jamaica, the better everyone’s experience is,” said Wykeham McNeill, Minister of Tourism and Entertainment. That’s a huge change from the tendency—dominant until recently—of hotel guests never venturing forth except, perhaps, on a shepherded excursion to Dunn’s River Falls.

McNeill encouraged attendees to see how downtown Montego Bay has been beautified, and he reported that Negril, Ocho Rios, Palma, and various historical sites are being revitalized, too. The government is also acquiring beaches that have not been developed and building restrooms and other facilities. No longer is the hotel beach the only beach.

Millennials and Travel
Jamaica is determined to attract more millennials, who make up 20 percent of the travel market, said Madden-Greig. “They are seeking adventures, one-of-a-kind experiences, and interactions with the people,” she said, adding that they are also demanding WiFi, so more and more hotels are offering it “from the guestrooms to the beach”—and free.

“We are using entertainment as an attracter, not just an attraction,” said Damion Crawford, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment. Jamaica is promoting Reggae Month in February, he added, and it is combining various summertime events and festivals into a 90 Days of Summer promotion from May 15-Aug. 15 that will feature 10-day packages and reduce seasonality.

Marijuana Tourism
In answer to the inevitable questions about marijuana tourism, McNeill said that medical usage might be a possibility in the future. However, although “there is a general consensus in Parliament that we want to decriminalize marijuana, and that process is underway,” the actual legalization of marijuana is not currently a serious possibility.

For more information, go to visitjamaica.com.