“As of August 2019, stopover visitors reached 1.87 million, an increase of 9.1 percent over 2018,” declared Jamaican Tourist Board Director Donovan White at breakfast one day during the Jamaica Products Exchange, aka JAPEX. What’s more, he said, “We are extremely upbeat about a strong finish to 2019 and a very strong start to 2020.”
Why is Jamaica attracting so many visitors — and expecting even more of them? Here’s his explanation:
- “Airlift from the United States continues to grow…” he said. For example, “The announcement of daily flights [starting in December] from JFK to MBJ by American Airlines is the most aggressive push by that airline in the last five years to service the Jamaica market.” And although—or because—40 percent of visitors from the United States come from the Northeast, he called Delta’s new daily service from Detroit to Montego Bay “a welcome lift for the Midwest.”
- In keeping with rising airlift, Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay is expanding its departure terminal and commercial area. “MBJ is adding 25,800 sq. ft. to the terminal, [and] the shops will reflect “a renewed focus on Jamaican specialty products and handicrafts.” In addition, Jamaica’s new online Immigration and Customs Declaration form speeds up the arrival process.
- Hotels have contributed to the rise in stopovers, too. The sophisticated, 220-room AC Hotel by Marriott in Kingston opened in 2019, and “Half Moon has been quietly expanding its product,” said White. The Hotel Riu Ocho Rios reopens this month after a complete renovation and the addition of 45 new family rooms. Oceans by H10 will debut with 500 of 1,000 rooms in November. And this fall Karisma will start constructing a 3,000-room project in Salem, St. Ann.
- That said, “It is not only in hotels where we are… improving the visitor experience,” explained White. The Tourism Enhancement Fund has just completed the promenade leading into the town of Ocho Rios, and the artisan village that will house 42 artisans at Hampden Wharf is 90 percent completed. Jamaica is also investing J$1.2 billion in the Closed Harbour Beach project, a 16-acre site that White likened to the Emancipation Park in Kingston, “with walking trails and an amphitheatre… Completion is expected in mid-2020.”
- Finally, Jamaica will launch a new marketing campaign next month on the heels of its recent bumper crop of awards. “We are always energized and fired up to share abroad the gem that is Jamaica,” he concluded, “because we live it, because we love it, and because we believe in it.”
Watch for an exclusive interview with Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett in the October issue of Recommend magazine. Also coming soon: an on-site update for Half Moon. For hotel news from JAPEX, see 4 Hotels that Want Your Attention.