Jamaica lands in Toronto with news about increased airlift and strong recovery numbers
Jamaica's Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett and Jamaica Tourist Board's Angella Bennett

Jamaica lands in Toronto with news about increased airlift and strong recovery numbers

TORONTO — Jamaica is making a big push in Canada this week in an effort to ramp up marketing efforts and inspire last-minute getaways ahead of the all-important winter season.

At a cocktail reception last night at the Toronto Region Board of Trade, Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett shared incredibly positive news and statistics coming out of Canada, Jamaica’s third largest visitor market. Announcing that “the marketing program for Canada is now in full gear,” the Minister was particularly enthusiastic about airlift, which has returned in full since the pandemic.

“So far, we have been successful in commitments that will see the number of airline seats at a record 283,000 out of Canada to Jamaica this winter – 26,000 more seats than was recorded in 2019, pre-COVID-19,” said the Minister. Flights this winter are available with Air Canada Vacations, WestJet, Transat and Sunwing.

“The 283,000 seats will go a long way in bringing us back to our levels of over 300,000 visitors that we had during the immediate pre-COVID period. But the objective is to get to 400,000 where we were in 2010,” he added.

Though Jamaica has recovered faster than other Caribbean destinations, Minister Bartlett said that the destination will not ease up on its efforts to attract new and repeat guests. This includes the recent launch of its new ‘Come Back’ campaign, which was produced by an all-Jamaica crew and shot in a 60mile radius between Portland and St. Ann.

“While Jamaica’s post-pandemic tourism recovery has been remarkable and we are anticipating a strong winter season, we cannot take our current successes for granted. We are therefore doubling down on our efforts to increase arrivals out of our main source markets like Canada by engaging our major travel partners,” he added.

According to the Minister, over the past two and a half years, Jamaica has to date been regarded as the fifth fastest recovering tourism destination in the world since reopening to tourism on June 20, 2020. Since then, the island has generated US$5.7 billion in tourism dollars and has welcomed five million visitors.

While in Canada, Minister Bartlett will participate in meetings with key tourism investors as well as give the keynote address at the Jamaica Tourism Investment Forum at the Toronto Trade Board Centre on Nov. 16. On Nov. 17, the Minister will also attend the Global Tourism and Resilience Management Forum at Carlton University in Ottawa.

In a sit-down with Travelweek, Minister Bartlett shared additional thoughts on Jamaica’s recovery, the importance of the new campaign as well as the Canadian market:

 

Jamaica just welcomed its two millionth stopover arrival last month for 2022. What would you attribute the country’s quick recovery to?

Firstly, it’s the way we managed Covid. It’s due to the fact that we were able to keep the infections low and the recovery high, and also the fact that we were able to maintain a ‘Resilient Corridor’ that enabled visitors to enjoy the fullest of their vacation without an infection. In the process, we developed not just respect out of the market in general, but the appreciation of the wider community.

“Jamaica was also able to maintain its air connectivity throughout the pandemic. I have to say thanks to Air Canada for continuing to fly to Jamaica, even when borders were closed, when there was a need for repatriation, as well as other airlines like JetBlue, American Airlines and British Airways. Those air partners got the destination going. We reopened our borders in June 2020 and all our airline partners came back. As a result, we’ve been able to continuously grow and welcome five million visitors and record two million already in one single calendar year.

“I also want to speak to our travel agents, tour operator partners and media, who have all worked together with us to keep the message going and sharing the positive feelings we have for Jamaica.”

 

How important is the Canadian market? And what kind of winter are you anticipating from Canada?

“The Canadian market is critical to us. It was #2 in arrivals pre-pandemic and is currently sitting at #3, only because of Canada’s late opening of borders. I am proud of how in the first year of Canada’s reopening – and it hasn’t even been a full year – we have already reached 200,000 Canadian visitors. I have full confidence that by the end of 2023 we will be back in the 300,000 column, although the objective is to reach 400,000 like we had back in 2010. Canadians love Jamaica and the numbers are showing to be very strong. In the next five years, we are going to be bringing 15,000 new rooms online, and that’s going to provide a lot of options for Canadians in various price points to come and enjoy our destination.

 

The new ‘Come Back’ campaign really focuses on locals and authentic experiences. Is Jamaica marketing itself differently now than prior to the pandemic?

“There has been a shift in our marketing because the post-Covid period requires a reimagination of tourism, a reinvention of ourselves, and a redefinition of the experiential values of tourism in Jamaica. We have to understand the Canadian market better as it has shifted too. And it has shifted towards a more sustainable experience that travellers are seeking. Canadians want to see the real Jamaica, they want to feel and taste the authentic Jamaican cuisine, to see the rivers and lakes and valleys and mountains, and explore all the physical features of Jamaica. They want to be there with the people, and this ad shows that. It really says ‘come back to us’ and feel a little bit of you that has always been there.”

 

What’s your takeaway message to Canadian travel agents heading into the winter season?

“Our travel partners are the lifeblood of our market. We are very happy to strengthen the relationship with them to provide them with support, and to enable them to understand the market and the destination a little better. We are increasing the number of fam trips, education and information flow so they can better influence visitors to come to Jamaica.

“We also want them to feel the love that we have for them, and I want to use the opportunity to thank them for their support over the years. I look forward to strengthening our relationship and even more good work as we look to the future.”