MONTEGO BAY — After its best year ever in 2014 for travel by Canadians to Jamaica, 2015 is being called a “soft” year by Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, the Honourable Dr. Wykeham McNeill, as travel by Canadians showed small declines.
Overall, however, Jamaica is seeing increased arrivals from other destinations.
The news came out of the 25th edition of JAPEX (Jamaica Product Exchange), co-hosted by The Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association (JHTA) and Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB). The event took place in Montego Bay Sept. 20-22 and is Jamaica’s premier travel trade show and business forum for travel agents, tour operators and wholesalers.
It’s believed that the small decline in Canadian travellers is due to the depreciation of the Canadian dollar versus the American dollar, and the current recession in Canada. In the next few months, many plans and initiatives will be executed by the Jamaican tourism sector in an attempt to reverse the decline, as there is no intention to give up on what has been lost.
There will be continued efforts to work with travel agent partners to sell the destination, including a number of small destination update seminars across the country this fall in addition to the regular roster of destination FAMs. There will also be an in-cinema consumer advertising campaign in the near future.
The big news coming out of JAPEX, that everyone was very excited about, is the improved highway project that is nearing completion. It connects Kingston, Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Port Antonio, and will allow travellers to visit more resort towns in one visit to Jamaica as trips will be faster and easier.
In hotel news, the Courtyard Kingston Jamaica by Marriott is scheduled to open in November. Located in New Kingston, it will have 129 guestrooms including four luxury suites, plus 1,900 square feet of meeting space in three venues. Business and leisure travellers will be able to enjoy complimentary WiFi throughout the property, as well as the indoor pool and fitness centre on their downtime.
Hedonism II in Negril, the notorious clothing-optional resort, is nearing completion of a US$6.8 million property overhaul that has revamped and improved guest rooms, suites and common areas. There will be a new wine bar, new espresso bar and new beach grill, plus a full renovation of the courtyard among other enhancements.
One exciting development for Jamaica is the designation, for culture and for nature, of the Blue and John Crow Mountains as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is one of only 34 UNESCO sites designated for culture and for nature.
Many at JAPEX were wondering how Jamaicans perceived recent tourism-related developments out of Cuba. With typical Jamaican optimism, many were seeing it as an opportunity to work closely with Cuba by coordinating marketing.
As Jamaica is English-speaking and Cuba is Spanish-speaking, members of the Jamaican tourism sector see an opportunity for overseas travellers to combine these two unique destinations in one trip. Jamaica has already been competing with Cuba for decades in the Canadian and other non-American markets, so a little friendly competition with Cuba is nothing new. Discussions are also in the works to generate flights from Cuba to Jamaica.