Canadian Travel Press
Issue Date: Sep 30, 2019

Jamaica heats up

More rooms, more travellers


Tourism to Jamaica is heating up with a booming increase in arrivals and big-name resorts coming online across the island destination.

“Jamaica is experiencing record-breaking numbers, undergoing major developments and receiving global recognition like never before,” said Donovan White, director of tourism for the Jamaica Tourist Board at the 29th Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX). “Tourism is our largest earner of foreign exchange and second largest employer of our human capital and we are proud to share that the industry is once again poised to achieve year-on-year growth in arrivals and earnings.”

White noted that as of August, stopover visitors reached 1.87 million, an increase of 9.1% over 2018. Although cruise visits are down largely due to itinerary changes by major cruise lines, he said they project an additional increase in stop-over arrivals of 7% or 807,796 for the remainder of the year, “which would end the calendar year 2019 with 2.68 million arrivals – an increase of 8.4% over 2018.”

As for the Canadian market, White expects the figures to remain similar to last year with just under 400,000 visitors, with a marginal 0.08% increase recorded for the first half of the year.

With new rooms coming online, Angella Bennett, regional director, Canada for the Jamaica Tourist Board, believes Canadian arrivals will continue on a positive trajectory.

“The growth of Canada is heavily dependent on increased airlift, increased room stock in the destination and at the right price point,” said Bennett. “Jamaica has added almost 1,000 new rooms in 2019, and in 2020 and beyond Jamaica will witness the largest growth in hotel rooms ever with the expansion of existing properties and the construction of new ones.”

Cindy Gerhardt, product manager, WestJet Vacations, said their hotel partners in Jamaica have come up with aggressive early booking offers for 2020 travel.

“We are being proactive and working diligently to get advance bookings for Jamaica,” she told CTP. “Jamaica has become a hot destination and Canadians will have to book early to get the deals and the hotels they want.”

While the country has extended its state of emergency across areas like the St James parish, Bennett told Canadian Travel Press travellers should feel safe in the destination and travel agents should feel confident in sending their clients to Jamaica.

“The actions taken to extend the state of emergency is a deliberate strategy on the part of the Government of Jamaica to take proactive steps at key intervals to maintain a safe, secure and seamless experience for all law abiding citizens as well as visitors,” she said. “This is evidenced by the strong visitor arrivals for the summer months. Jamaica has welcomed nearly two million visitors from the beginning of the year.”

Trade takeaways

Considered the most important business generator for Jamaica’s tourism industry, JAPEX 2019 featured 81 buyer companies with 117 delegates and 91 supplier companies with 220 delegates on hand in Montego Bay.

David Dobson, Chief Technical Director at the Ministry of Tourism; Omar Robinson, president of the JHTA; Shernette Crichton, general manager, Half Moon Resort; Camile Glenister, Deputy Director of Tourism, Marketing, Jamaica Tourist Board; Angella Bennett (3rd right), Regional Director – Canada, Jamaica Tourist Board; and Jamaica’s Director of Tourism Donovan White.

Omar Josephs, national manager of industry relations, Unique Vacations (Canada) Inc.

Omar Josephs, national manager of industry relations, Unique Vacations (Canada) Inc.

Donovan White, director of tourism, and Angella Bennett, regional director, Canada for the Jamaica Tourist Board

Iana Tickle Garcia, Miss Universe – Jamaica

“Japex is our major marketplace which creates an opportunity to meet with our tour operators and hotel partners,” said Bennett. “It is particularly important to the Canadian market as it will be a competitive year for the destination against the strong growth of the US to Jamaica.”

JAPEX connects wholesalers, tour operators and travel agents with Jamaica’s leading tourism suppliers over two days of pre-scheduled appointments and face-to-face business negotiations.

“Attending Japex is key twofold: we come to show our support to this incredible destination and it offers us the opportunity to meet with our key tour operator partners to discuss how to grow the business here,” said Rose Cosentino, vice-president, Sales – Canada for Playa Hotels & Resorts.

Meanwhile Gerhardt said the show gives her an opportunity to speak with hotel partners to gauge their business needs and align them with those of WestJet Vacations.

“At Japex we strengthened partnerships and enjoyed healthy collaboration about the business and how we can grow it for our guests. Jamaicans love Canadians and repeatedly tell me how much they love hosting WestJet Vacations guests,” she said. “Canadians are smart and are always looking for the best value. WestJet Vacations offers a lot of value and we have something for everyone. Jamaica is one of our top selling destinations by far and that’s because our guests love the strong value hotels like Sunscape, SeaGarden, Iberostar Beach and Holiday Inn. Our most popular 4-5 stars are often putting value added propositions into place and Canadian consumers appreciate that. The newly added Jewel Paradise Cove, Jewel Runaway Bay, Ocean Coral Spring and Azul Sensatori Negril will give us additional 4 and 5 star product in our line up and give Canadians these popular hotel options paired with WestJet air.”

Giving back

Presented by The Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association and the Jamaica Tourist Board, Omar Robinson, president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, kicked off the opening ceremony at the Montego Bay Convention Centre by announcing a US$20,000 donation towards hurricane relief efforts in The Bahamas through the Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre (GTRCM), one of the first international organizations dedicated to providing resources and support to tourism-dependent nations around the world.

“Many of our industry partners are doing their part to contribute to the recovery efforts in The Bahamas. In addition our Minister of Tourism, the honourable Edmund Bartlett has been at the forefront of efforts to mobilize support for the recovery efforts through the UNWTO and the GTRCM,” he said. “In this regard, the JHTA would like to make a financial donation of US$20,000 through the Global Tourism Resilience Centre. It is our hope and prayer that the resources being channeled to The Bahamas will help safeguard the health and welfare of the residents and contribute to the rebuilding of the country in the shortest possible time. This is Caribbean solidarity.”

Room for growth

Some of the latest development in Jamaica includes the 219 room AC Hotel by Marriott Kingston, which opened in June, the RIU Ocho Rios, which underwent a complete refurbishment and will reopen this month with 45 new family rooms, the Oceans by H10 development in Trelawny, set to be a 1,000-room property, 500 of which are scheduled to be open by November.

“We are always energized and fired up to share abroad the gem that is Jamaica, because we live it, because we love it
and because we believe in it,” said White. “With the development of our new brand
marketing campaign readying for launch
in October 2019, we are extremely upbeat about a strong finish to 2019 and a very strong start to 2020.”

The Government of Jamaica has also finalized the sale of lands in St. Ann for a major project with Karisma Hotels & Resorts.

Sangster International Airport is continuing its infrastructure improvements which will see the addition of 25,800 square feet to the departure terminal and upgrades to the commercial area focusing on Jamaican specialty products and artisan goods.

In other news, Jamaica launched an online version of the Immigration and Customs Declaration form for arriving visitors at the island’s international airports. The new online format allows passengers to be processed more seamlessly, leading to a reduction in wait times at both immigration and customs.

“It works!” exclaimed Bennett.