Tourism arrivals for the first half of 2012 are up just 2.5 per cent over year earlier levels, but large online travel site Expedia attained double-digit booking growth for Jamaica over the same period.
Essentially, Expedia recorded more growth in troubled markets than local stakeholders.
Just over one million visitors came to Jamaica over the review period, or about 25,000 more than last year, according to just-released Jamaica Tourist Board statistics analysed by the Financial Gleaner.
The slim rise in tourism arrivals comes amidst economic downturns in major markets of US and Europe, whose arrivals were down.
However, Expedia has announced that demand for travel to Jamaica during the first half of 2012 increased nearly 10 per cent compared to the previous year. Its network of online travel booking sites includes more than 100 branded sites and more than 10,000 affiliate sites.
Expedia said that demand was coming from consumers in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Over the past year, Expedia has worked closely with Jamaican tourism officials and the local hospitality community to generate incremental travel demand to the Caribbean destination.
A popular destination
JTB statistics indicated that over the first six months of 2012, some 661,330 visitors came from the United States or 2.4 per cent higher year-on-year. Canada, the island's second-largest market for tourists, increased 8.3 per cent year-on-year, trending towards 150,000.
"Jamaica is consistently one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean on Expedia and Hotels.com sites, and has historically also been exceptionally strategic when it comes to participating in new marketing initiatives in our online travel marketplace" said Demetrius Canton, director of market management for the Caribbean, Expedia Lodging Partner Services in a media release.
Representatives from Expedia were in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, earlier this month to attend the Jamaica Product Exchange, arguably the year's most anticipated local tourism industry event. During the event, the online travel company unveiled plans for Jamaica's latest marketing campaign, scheduled to run between November 2012 and February 2013.
"Jamaica could not find a more perfect partner than Expedia to support our marketing efforts. By creating an online marketing strategy driven by their expert advice, we were able to generate more direct bookings from traditional markets and venture into new emerging markets," said John Lynch, Jamaica's director of tourism, in a release accompanying the Expedia statements.
Tourism currently earns the country some US$2 billion annually.