From left to right: The JTB's Director of Tourism, Donovan White and Regional Director of Tourism - Canada, Angella Bennett, and Jamaica's Minister of Tourism, the Hon. Edmund Bartlett, in Toronto on Sept. 30, 2021

JTB’s good news: Forward bookings to Jamaica from Canada are 65% of 2019 levels

TORONTO — Jamaica is more than ready for Canadian vacationers this fall and winter – and apparently Canadians are ready for Jamaica too, with forward bookings currently at 65% of 2019 levels.

It’s an amazing metric amid a pandemic, and much of the momentum heading into the fall and winter season is thanks to the Jamaica Tourist Board, which has worked hard to keep the destination front and centre with Canadian travellers – and travel agents.

Granted, some of those forward bookings may be in watch-and-wait mode. While Canadians are realizing they’re in desperate need of a winter sun getaway, many are still wary of the delta variant, and the Canadian government’s ever-present travel advisory against non-essential travel.

But after an extremely challenging 18 months, hearing that forward bookings are even approaching 2019 levels is extremely positive.

Jamaica reopened in June 2020 “and we never closed after that,” said Jamaica’s Tourism Minister, Edmund Bartlett, in an interview with Travelweek this morning.

Jamaica’s Resilient Corridors, which created COVID-19 safe zones for vacationers across 85% of the island’s top tourism destinations, have been a big part of Jamaica’s success with bringing back international visitors. Jamaica welcomed its millionth visitor for 2021 on Aug. 15.

Another major contributor to Jamaica’s momentum, especially from the Canadian market, has been the tireless efforts of the Jamaica Tourist Board, particularly where the trade is concerned. From the JTB’s Virtual Product Showcase to countless Irie Hours, webinars and more, the JTB’s work in this market under the direction of Regional Director of Tourism – Canada, Angella Bennett, has done wonders.

Says the JTB’s Director of Tourism, Donovan White: “One thing we’ve made sure of throughout this entire experience of COVID is being very accessible to our trade partners, and particularly our travel agent community. At the end of the day they are our touch points in the consumer space.”

White added: “We realized that the better informed travel agents are, the better they’re able to get the right information about the destination to the Canadian people. So we use the [travel agent] channel a lot and it has truly been to our benefit.”

Jamaica has 82% of its 2019 lift back for the 2021-2022 winter season out of Canada. Airline partners including Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing, Transat and Swoop have flights to Jamaica from gateways across Canada. Several airlines and resort companies shared their outlook for Jamaica for the upcoming season in the July 2021 Virtual Product Showcase hosted by the JTB.

“All of our traditional partners are back on board,” says Bartlett. With all the lift from Canada, amounting to upwards of 260,000 seats for the season, “it’s a true demonstration of confidence in Jamaica.”

Bartlett noted that tourism’s recovery globally “is predicated heavily on vaccination. It’s important for consumers to know the importance of being vaccinated.” The level of hesitancy about vaccination in countries around the world “is becoming the next pandemic,” he added.

“Travel has to take responsibility for recovery,” said Bartlett. “Source markets must be vaccinated – and destinations too.”

Earlier this week Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated the federal government’s intention to mandate proof of full COVID-19 vaccination for any Canadian traveller looking to get on a plane, train or cruise ship in the coming weeks.

Jamaica is safe and secure for Canadian travellers looking for a getaway this winter, says Bartlett. Plus, who can forget “the sun, the music, the food,” he adds.

Canadians arriving in Jamaica just need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours before arrival.

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