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Jamaica Blitz on Global Markets: Official Update by Tourism Minister

Small Tourism Enterprises and Farmers Receive Major Boost Under Jamaica's REDI II Initiative
Jamaica Tourism Minister Hon. Edmund Bartlett
Written by Linda S. Hohnholz

Jamaica Tourism Minister, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, presented an update on the tourism sector to Parliament. Following are his remarks.

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  1. Jamaica’s tourism industry is steadily rebounding in a major way and the demand for our reimagined product is at an all-time high.
  2. Nowhere was this more evident than on our highly successful five-week markets blitz that took us from the United States and Canada to the Middle East and the United Kingdom.
  3. The response was truly exceptional.

It is already evident in the numbers that our new approach to our tourism offerings, born out of COVID-19 pandemic considerations, is paying off. Our arrivals figures are climbing, airlift for the winter season is looking good, and cruise will be back in all our ports before year end.

Stopover arrivals year to date now stand at 1.2 million, and since cruise shipping resumed in August, we have welcomed over 36,000 cruise passengers, while our earnings are now at the US$1.5 billion mark.

Jamaica is well on its ways to recovery. 2021 stopover arrivals are estimated to be up 41% year-over-year, and year to date we have recouped nearly half of 2019’s stopover business.

The good news is that December is usually a strong month for us, and it begins the high season when the rates are higher, so we will likely meet our forecast of 1.6 million visitors and over US$2 billion in earnings.

By the end of 2022, Jamaica’s visitor numbers are expected to total 3.2 million, with cruise passengers accounting for 1.1 million and stopover arrivals accounting for roughly 2.1 million, while earnings are projected at US$3.3 billion.

By the end of 2023, Jamaica’s visitor numbers are expected to total 4.1 million, with cruise passengers accounting for 1.6 million and stopover arrivals accounting for 2.5 million and earnings at US$4.2 billion.

By the end of 2024, we are projected to surpass our pre-pandemic figures with total visitor arrivals of 4.5 million and estimated gross foreign exchange earnings of US$4.7 billion.

Other positive industry news which is foreshadowing this robust recovery for tourism:

  • 90% of pre-pandemic investment projects remain in place.
  • More than a dozen hotel development projects in progress.
  • 5,000 additional rooms.
  • Developments in progress throughout different areas of the island.
  • Return of cruise operations at all the island’s ports by early December

Touching briefly on cruise shipping, following a near 20-month hiatus, Falmouth welcomed its first cruise ship on Sunday – Carnival Corporation’s Emerald Princess, with some 2,780 passengers and crew members.

Celebrity Equinox, Aida Diva and Crystal Serenity are expected to return to Falmouth later this month. Disney Cruise Lines’ flagship vessel Disney Fantasy is scheduled to visit in December.

The arrival of the Emerald Princess provided an opportunity for the soft launch of the Artisan Village at Hampden Wharf with 10 artisans. It was very well received by the cruise visitors. The $700-million Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF)-financed village is themed to tell the story of Falmouth and offers Jamaicans and visitors an opportunity to share local food, drink, art, craft, and culture.

It forms part of the wider Hampden Wharf Development project and will be the first of a series of Artisan Villages that will be in resort areas across the island.

The successful outcomes of our international markets blitz will certainly help us to achieve this target if not surpass it.

I believe this positive rebound and increase in demand for Brand Jamaica is largely due to our successful efforts in restoring traveler confidence in Destination Jamaica.

Our health and safety protocols, Resilient Corridors, Jamaica Cares, and high vaccination rate (some 60%) among our tourism workers is assuring our visitors a safe, secure and seamless vacation experience.

I would like to share some of the main outcomes of my recent travels, along with other senior tourism officials, to our main source markets as well as our inroads into the non-traditional market of the Middle East, where we sought to boost arrivals and foster further investment in the tourism sector.

The United States & Canada Markets Blitz

We kicked off the blitz with a series of meetings with travel industry leaders, media and other stakeholders in our two largest source markets, the United States and Canada. I am pleased to share that our engagements with key tourism partners in both markets were very fruitful.

There were COVID-19-related concerns and we wanted to reassure tourism interests that Jamaica remains a safe destination.

Our protocols are in place to ensure that visitors can come to the island, go to our attractions and have an authentic Jamaican experience safely and seamlessly. Despite these concerns, however, confidence in Jamaica remains very strong.

Executives of the world’s largest airline, American Airlines, assured us that the island will by December see as many as 17 nonstop flights per day, as demand for the destination rises.

They also pointed out that Jamaica topped the Caribbean among consumers on their expansive American Airlines Vacations platform and confirmed that they will be utilizing their new, large, wide-bodied Boeing 787 planes, on several key routes to Jamaica starting November.

Southwest Airlines, one of the largest airlines in the United States and the world’s largest low-cost carrier airline, reassured our delegation that their flight operations into Montego Bay in the coming months are very close to 2019 pre-pandemic record levels, signaling increased demand for destination Jamaica by US travelers.

Southwest operates non-stop flights between the major US international airports of Houston (Hobby), Fort Lauderdale, Baltimore, Washington, Orlando, Chicago (Midway), St. Louis and Montego Bay.

Expedia Inc., the largest online travel agency in the world and the biggest producer of tourism business for Jamaica, said their data clearly shows impressive room night and passenger growth with both metrics surpassing the same time in 2019. They also noted that the US remains the overall top search origin market for Jamaica.

Our second-largest source market, Canada, will deliver 50 nonstop flights per week to the island. The flights, which commenced November 1, will be operated by Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing, Swoop and Transat with direct services from the Canadian cities of Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Halifax, Edmonton, St. John’s, Ottawa, and Moncton.

Forward bookings are hovering around 65% of 2019 levels and airlift for the Winter Season is at around 82% of 2019 levels with around 260,000 seats locked in. This is positive news as Canada has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 related travel restrictions, which for several months shut down international travel.

Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruise line, has committed to sending 110 or more cruises (200,000 cruise ship passengers), by its various brands, to the island between October 2021 and April 2022.

While Royal Caribbean International, the second largest cruise line in the world, resumed operations to Jamaica in November of this year. Also, cruise executives reiterated a strong desire to employ thousands of Jamaicans across a wide range of jobs and are awaiting government regulatory amendments to make it a reality.

Middle East Market Blitz

Investment will play a critical role in tourism’s recovery by providing the funds necessary to construct and upgrade projects essential to the development and growth of tourism capacity.

Our visit to the Middle East allowed us to explore opportunities for FDI in our tourism sector as well as build on discussions initiated in June with the Minister of Tourism for Saudi Arabia, His Excellency Ahmed Al Khateeb, aimed at facilitating cooperation and investment in tourism and other key areas.

Our first stop was in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the Dubai World Expo 2020. Jamaica was on show with a beautiful pavilion showcasing the destinations latest products and innovations under the theme: “Jamaica Makes it Move.” The pavilion has seven zones, which allow visitors to experience the sights, sounds and tastes of Jamaica, and see how our country moves the world and serves as a logistical connection.

I am proud to share that our captivating pavilion was named one of the ‘coolest’ at the World Expo 2020 by the ITP Media Group’s subsidiary, Time Out Dubai.

The Dubai trip provided us with the opportunity to follow up discussions with executives from TUI, one of our largest tour operators and partners in the distribution segment of the tourism industry.

TUI confirmed the resumption of their flights and cruises to Jamaica, with cruise activities scheduled to begin in January 2022. The company specifically outlined plans for homeporting in Montego Bay and the inclusion of calls to Port Royal on their cruise schedule. We expect to have five calls from January through April 2022 in Port Royal. During discussions with TUI, the company executives advised that their data shows that the demand for cruise is high, and they have managed to retain cancelled bookings. They also shared that air capacity for this winter season will be 79,000, which is only 9% less than pre-COVID winter figures.

While in Dubai, we concluded a series of important cruise investment meetings with DP World, one of the world’s largest port and marine logistics companies, based in the UAE. During three consecutive days of meetings, we had serious discussions about investments in the Port Royal Cruise Port and the possibility of homeporting. We also discussed the development of a logistics hub, a Vernamfield multi-modal transport and aerotropolis as well as other infrastructural investments.

DP World specializes in cargo logistics, maritime services, port terminal operations and free trade zones. It handles some 70 million containers that are brought in by around 70,000 vessels annually, which equates to roughly 10% of global container traffic accounted for by their 82 marine and inland terminals present in over 40 countries.

We initiated discussions with top representatives of Emirates Airlines, to introduce a special service between Dubai and Jamaica, in celebration of Jamaica Day at Expo 2020, Dubai in February 2022. Emirates is the largest airline in the UAE, and the Middle East overall, operating over 3,600 flights per week.

In addition, we anticipate further discussions in the context of multi-destination strategies being formulated in the northern Caribbean to enable a more fulsome engagement of the Emirates and other partners in the Middle East.

We also met with the UAE’s Tourism Authority to discuss collaboration on tourism investment from the region, Middle East tourism initiatives, and gateway access for North Africa and Asia and facilitation of airlift.

Additionally, meetings took place with executives of EMAAR, arguably the largest and most prestigious hospitality and Real Estate/Community developer in the Middle East; DNATA, the single largest tour operator in the UAE and TRACT, a powerful tour operator in India.

Our trip to UAE ended on a high note. This year’s staging of the prestigious World Travel Awards was held in Dubai, and Jamaica continued its dominance copping “Caribbean’s Leading Destination’ and ‘Caribbean’s Leading Cruise Destination,’ while the Jamaica Tourist Board was named the ‘Caribbean’s Leading Tourist Board.’ 

We were also victorious in two new categories: ‘Caribbean’s Leading Adventure Tourism Destination’ and ‘Caribbean’s Leading Nature Destination.’ Several players in the local tourism industry also emerged as big winners.

From the UAE, we headed to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where we had discussions with executives from Saudia Airlines. I am pleased to share that plan are in train to boost air connectivity between the Middle East and the Caribbean.

The broader strategy is to have Jamaica become the hub for connectivity from the Middle East through to the Caribbean, Central America, South America and areas of North America. This will position Jamaica as being central to air connectivity between the East and West.

We are very confident that we will see results from this in short order as both airlines that we have spoken to have shown a strong appetite for the Caribbean and, more so, Latin America.

The round of marketing activities with key tourism and logistics partners in the Middle East were very fruitful and will undoubtedly result in securing new investments and markets and opening major gateways.

UK Market Blitz

Our foray into our third largest source market, the United Kingdom (UK), to bolster arrivals proved to be equally productive and concluded our global markets blitz.

I led a high-level team from the Ministry of Tourism and the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) to the World Travel Market, one of the largest international tourism trade shows in the world, which was held in London from November 1 to 3.

We have had very good engagements with our key partners in the UK and reassured them of Jamaica’s readiness for them and our safety as a destination, with a less than one percent COVID-19 infection rate on the Resilient Corridors.

While at the World Travel Market, we met with senior executives of Amadeus, a European-based global travel technology company, who informed us that the September 30 release of the latest James Bond movie, No Time to Die, which has multiple scenes shot in Jamaica, is aiding in driving interest in destination Jamaica, particularly in the United Kingdom.

Jamaica is Bond’s spiritual home, with Ian Fleming writing Bond’s novels at his house, “Goldeneye.” Bond films Dr. No and Live and Let Die were also filmed here. For No Time to Die, the filmmakers constructed Bond’s retirement beach house on San San Beach in Port Antonio.

Other scenes filmed in Jamaica include his get-together with his friend Felix and meeting the new 007, Nomi. Jamaica also doubles for the exterior Cuba scenes.

In addition, the Amadeus executives noted that they are seeing very high search and booking interest and demand for destination Jamaica in the United Kingdom and attributed it to the work of the Ministry of Tourism and its public body the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) with key partners in the marketplace.

Later this month we will start receiving at least 17 flights per week from the United Kingdom, bringing the island back to approximately 100 percent airline seat capacity as our tourism numbers rebound.

TUI, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are the three airlines carrying passengers between the UK and Jamaica with TUI operating six flights per week, Virgin Atlantic to increase to five flights per week and British Airways to operate five per week. The flights run out of London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Manchester and Birmingham. Beyond that, we are likely to see further schedule changes as our teams continue discussions with our stakeholders.

In news out of our European markets, the third-largest European point-to-point carrier, Eurowings, made its inaugural flight from Frankfurt, Germany, to Montego Bay on November 4, with 211 passengers and crew.

Germany has been a very strong market for us, with 23,000 visitors from this country coming to our shores in 2019 before the pandemic. This flight from Germany will aid in our mission to increase visitor arrivals from Europe, which my team has been actively engaging with.

The new service will fly twice weekly into Montego Bay, departing Wednesdays and Saturdays, and enhance access to the island from Europe. Additionally, Swiss leisure travel airline, Edelweiss, started new once-weekly flights into Jamaica while Condor Airlines restarted roughly twice-weekly flights between Frankfurt, Germany, and Montego Bay in July.

There is no doubt that tourism is the heartbeat of the Jamaican economy and the catalyst that will enable us to recover quickly. These tangible gains that we are making in tourism will almost certainly redound to the benefit of all concerned – the Jamaican people, our tourism partners and our visitors.

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About the author

Linda S. Hohnholz

Linda Hohnholz has been the editor in chief for eTurboNews for many years.
She loves to write and pays attention to details.
She is also in charge of all premium content and press releases.

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