MONTEGO BAY — At Jamaica’s Destination Update hosted by the JTB and the Jamaica Hotel & Tourist Association (JHTA), the Jamaica Tourist Board’s Canadian team led by Regional Director Angella Bennett got a shout-out for its dedication to keeping the destination top of mind during the pandemic.
The pent-up demand in the Canadian market “is starting to show in the pace of bookings coming in,” said the JTB’s Director of Tourism, Donovan White, at yesterday’s update, a hybrid in-person/online event.
“That is something we have been working extremely hard for,” said White. “The JTB teams in Canada and the UK / Europe, the level of focus they’ve maintained [during the pandemic with its travel restrictions], that is something that is worthy of your applause.”
Currently Jamaica is at 65% of its 2019 capacity in terms of air seats, and 45% of 2019 levels for international passengers. For November and December 2021, the numbers are particularly strong, at 95% and 97% respectively compared to 2019 when it comes to room nights. “It is phenomenal, the level of growth that we’re seeing,” said White.
The JTB expects that by late 2023, Jamaica will be well on its way to complete recovery, with a projected 3.7 million visitors by the end of 2023, bringing in US$3.5 billion in revenue. The outlook for 2024 is 4.2 million visitors and $4 billion in revenue.
Clifton Reader, President, JHTA and Managing Director, Moon Palace Jamaica in Ocho Rios, thinks the island might get to those 2024 numbers even earlier. “Travel agents are bullish on Jamaica, and the airlines are even more so,” said Reader. The cruise ships are back too, he noted.
During his presentation Reader looked back to the start of the pandemic, when travel around the world was shutting down. “In March 2020 we went from 90% occupancy [at Moon Palace Jamaica] to zero, in 10 days,” he said. “On March 23 we closed our doors and had to lay off 90% of our treasured assets, our staff.”
Moon Palace Jamaica reopened its doors June 15, 2020, at just 9% occupancy. “For the next four to five months, we were in a state of cost reduction, nothing for profit.”
More tough times were ahead, when Canada and the UK “basically closed their borders” in January 2021.
Canada’s travel advisory lifted last month, and UK, European and U.S. travellers are booking winter sun vacations in droves. Reader thanked Jamaica’s key partners – travel agents – for their hard work during the pandemic. “For the agents who worked so hard to get us where we are, thank you,” he said.