20 SEP 2019: Great relationships are at the core of Jamaica’s continuing strong relationship with Canada, resulting in steady tourism numbers year over, says the country’s director of tourism.

“Just last evening I had some good conversations with Transat and we have maintained great relationships with all of our airlift partners, all of our tour operators and businesses.”

White concedes that the Caribbean island is not experiencing “buoyant growth,” from this country, but neither has it seen any decline in 2019 in numbers that total about 400,000 a year – enough to make Canada Jamaica’s number two source of visitors behind the US and ahead of Britain. “But we’re very positive about seeing growth over the winter season – we have secured all of our airlift for the winter and we expect our numbers to continue along a very positive path.”

The biggest challenge, White suggests, is that Canadians have “many choices of destinations possible and it’s a very competitive space.” But he adds, that with the help of the trade, strong marketing inroads in Canada have been made in the last six months that will ensure that “Canadians won’t forget Jamaica when it comes to thinking of their winter getaway.”

As expected, the Canadian trade was well represented at the 29th annual event, accompanied by Angella Bennett, the Jamaica Tourist Board’s new regional director of tourism for Canada, who has been in the position for five months, though White joked, “I’m sure she feels like it’s been five years.”

JAPEX delegates, which included 81 buyer companies and 91 suppliers, along with travel agents and media, were told that, overall, Jamaica visitor numbers are up 9.1 percent so far this year and that 2.68 million arrivals are forecast through the end of the year (an 8.4 percent year over year jump), a welcome development for the country’s second largest employer, tourism.

And while sentiment was naturally strong for traditional markets like Canada, new three times weekly flights from Lima, Peru (which sent a vocal delegation to the show) starting Dec. 1, and interest from Russia created obvious enthusiasm.

“These are indeed exciting times for Jamaica’s tourist industry,” White said.

Some other developments of note include:

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

• A new Director of Security has been appointed by the minister of tourism and analysis of a recent security audit is expected to be completed by October, after which specific recommendations and projects will be implemented.

• Sangster International Airport (SIA) in Montego Bay is expanding infrastructure improvements, which include a new design theme, the addition of 2,300 sq. m. to the departure terminal, and upgrades to the commercial area with a renewed focus on Jamaican specialty products and artisan goods.

• The Government of Jamaica has finalized the sale of land in Salem, St. Ann, for Karisma Hotels & Resorts to begin the construction of 3,000 rooms in several phases, beginning with 700 later this year.

• AC Hotel by Marriott in Kingston opened its doors in June as the newest lifestyle hotel in Jamaica, adding 219 rooms to the overall inventory in the capital city. The property (developed by Sandals) is situated on 2.4 hectares within the city’s golden triangle, catering to business and leisure travellers.

• Half Moon Resort in Montego Bay has added 57 rooms and suites, suitable for families and small groups.

• In Port Antonio, the Geejam Collection is launching 12 new 51-sq-m. rooms as part of its latest development plan. The Marumba Studios, slated to open late this year, will feature a modern creative design, boasting views of the surrounding rainforest and crystal blue sea.

• RIU Ocho Rios will reopen to the public this month after a complete refurbishment of its 790 rooms, and the addition of 45 new family rooms.

• In Trelawny, the anew Oceans by H10 will offer 1,000 rooms, with 500 of those slated to debut this November.

• Jamaica’s Tourism Enhancement Fund has completed a promenade leading into the town of Ocho Rios, which will soon be officially opened; to be followed immediately with the creation of an Elegant Corridor along that same strip.

• The Artisan village at Hampden Wharf is 90 percent completed and will be opened by Spring 2020. It will house 42 artisans.

• Close to $10 million is being invested in a nearly half-hectare site similar to Emancipation Park in Kingston. The Closed Harbour Beach Project will have walking trails and an amphitheatre with completion expected in mid 2020.

“These updates are very strong indications that there is a significant amount of demand for Destination Jamaica in the marketplace,” said White. “With the development of our new brand marketing campaign readying for launch in October, we are extremely upbeat about a strong finish to 2019 and a very strong start to 2020.”

And with almost one out of two (42 percent) visitors being repeat guests, “that means,” White says, “there is a level of acceptance of what the customers of Jamaica have come to expect, and we will continue to position and market our destination as such.”

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Michael Baginski

Editor, Mike Baginski is well known and well respected within the industry across Canada, the US, in the Caribbean, Mexico and numerous other destinations outside North America.

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