Clifton Reader, President of the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association, is upbeat about the future of tourism to the Caribbean destination.
“We are no longer inside the tunnel looking for the light, we are outside of the tunnel,” he said during a recent destination update in Jamaica. “Ladies and gentlemen, tourism is open and ready in Jamaica.”
After a turbulent time, Reader said Jamaica is now “averaging 65% occupancy for this winter season” — representing 70-80% of its business in 2019, which marked the best year ever for travel to Jamaica.
The Managing Director for Moon Palace Jamaica also noted that Jamaica was on track to beat its predictions for recovery in first quarter of 2024 ahead of time in the last quarter of 2023 “based on the bullishness of the market and the demand that is out there.”
“The indicators as they are now I believe that the last quarter of 2023 should see us return to 4.2 million visitors earning 3.6 billion dollars,” he said.
Crediting Jamaica’s resilient corridors as being “the single most important part of the country’s tourism recovery,” Reader is also optimistic about the comeback of the cruise industry, with Carnival expected to have over 100 ports of call visits between October to April 2022.
“Right now travel agents are bullish and the airlines are even more so bullish,” added Reader, noting there are 17 new flights set for the winter season.
In terms of employment, roughly 80% of workers have been hired back in the hotel sector, another positive sign for the industry in Jamaica.
Reader also pointed out that many resorts and hotels used the downtime during the pandemic to do upgrades and renovations.
“We used the opportunity to do all the work that needed to be done,” he said.
Room to grow
Meanwhile, Donovan White, director of tourism, Jamaica Tourist Board, said an impressive 90% of the pre-pandemic investment projects remain in place and are going forward. Over the next two years, more than a dozen hotel developments are underway, amounting to 5,000 additional rooms.
New additions include Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, a 1,700 room development in St. James; Princess Hotels & Resorts, “our newest investor, our newest brand to Jamaica,” has plans to construct a 2,000 room beach resort in Hanover at a cost of at least US$500 million with 1,000 rooms opening during phase 1; and multiple enhancements and additions from Sandals Resorts.
As international borders continue to reopen, White said Jamaica anticipates a 41% increase in visitor arrivals year-over-year.
“Jamaica will have for winter 2022 almost 10% more seats coming into Jamaica than 2019. That gives us the opportunity, based on our average rate of loading those seats of an expectation of 1.2 million visitors for winter 2022, which would be a 7.5% increase over 2019,” he said. “Bookings right now for the months of November and December is already at 95% and 97% respectively compared to 2019 numbers. It’s phenomenal the level of growth that we’re beginning to see.”
According to data from Amadeus, Jamaica is experiencing one of the fastest travel and tourism recoveries in the world after factoring in searches for the destination, air capacity and GDS bookings.
“Canadian pent up demand is already beginning to show signs by the pace of bookings that have come forward since the announcement of the Canadian government allowing their citizens to travel internationally,” he said, taking the time to credit the JTB in Canada for their hard work and dedication over the past 19 months.
In terms of lift, Canada has “another big push to serve Jamaica” with Air Canada, WestJet, Air Transat, Sunwing, and Swoop serving the destination from a number of gateways including Toronto, Montreal, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax and St John’s. The majority of the service is to Montego Bay but Kingston service is also picking up.
Focus on Bond, Jame Bond
The tourist board will also be leveraging the legacy of James Bond in Jamaica with a James Bond Trail in development to highlight local filming locations from Dr No (1962), Live and Let Die (1973), and No Time to Die (2021), which were all filmed (in part) in Jamaica. In addition, the tourist board plans to celebrate Ian Fleming’s history and ties to the destination and to launch a Bond microsite.
“The team is actively developing the Bond Trail, which will be initially a virtual experience that we can have on the Bond microsite but we’re also looking at physical experiences at all the places where the Bond films were filmed where you will be able to visit the sites on the trail and use your mobile phone with a QR code to get more information,” he said.
Looking ahead, White says Jamaica will put the spotlight on its luxury tourism products by focusing on upscale activities, attractions and places to stay, as well as romance and weddings.
Top: Clifton Reader, President of the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association; Odette Soberam-Dyer, regional director, Jamaica, JTB; Angella Bennett, regional director, Canada, JTB; and Donovan White, director of tourism, JTB.
Lede photo: Fiona Fennell, Senior Director, Corporate Communications at Ministry of Tourism at Jamaica Tourist Board.
Middle photo: Angella Bennett, regional director, Canada, JTB; Baxter Media’s Ann Ruppenstein; Martha Steszl; Laura Di Nardo, Fever Pitch Marketing Communications Inc., Canadian representatives for the JTB; and Donovan White, director of tourism, JTB.
Bottom photo: Moon Palace Jamaica