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Airbnb helps Carnival in Jamaica revel in tourist record - Visitors stayed as far as Trelawny to attend Kgn events

Published:Tuesday | April 10, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke/Gleaner Writer
From left: Carlos Munoz, head of public policy, Central America and the Caribbean, Airbnb Inc shares a hearty laugh with Donovan White, director of tourism, and Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett.
Sharie-Ann Anderson, vice-president, Jamaica Home Sharing Association, speaking at Tuesday’s launch of Airbnb Kingston.

Sherie-Ann Anderson is unequivocal about the visitor accommodation service's role in facilitating the bumper crowd of visitors to Jamaica for last weekend's Road March climax to 2018 Carnival in Jamaica. "If it were not for Airbnb, they could not hold. Everywhere in Kingston was sold out. People went as far as Trelawny to stay for Carnival," Anderson, vice-president of the Jamaica Home Sharing Association, told The Gleaner.

With the price difference between that accommodation option and higher-cost regular hotel stays, Anderson said "that's why I think we had the biggest Carnival we have ever had. Otherwise, people could not afford it."

Anderson was part of a ceremony at Devon House, St Andrew, on Tuesday afternoon, to formalise the lower-cost accommodation service, where persons share their homes with visitors. Addressing the launch of Airbnb's Kingston Host Club - which Airbnb Inc's head of public policy for Central America and the Caribbean said is the first in the Caribbean - Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett also used Carnival as a reference point for the effectiveness of experiences in attracting visitors. "That is what we are talking about," he said, also tabbing this year's Carnival as "the biggest ever."

Earlier this week, Bartlett revealed that 51,384 persons came to Jamaica for Carnival. This contributed to a 12.4 per cent jump in arrivals during the first week of April over the 2017 figures.

While Carnival has a defined season, entertainment in Jamaica is year-round, and in naming some of the varied Airbnb experiences in Jamaica, Bartlett spoke about Greenwich Town and Trench Town. Both, but more so the latter with its much chronicled residents such as Delroy Wilson and members of The Wailers - are crucibles of Jamaican popular music. A search of the listings for Trench Town showed an option priced at US$31 per guest per night. With two bedrooms and two bathrooms, it has accommodation for four guests, and the description says, "The place is well decorated and it has adequate space for relaxation."

Munoz cited some figures as well, among those specific to Kingston that there are 910 accommodations with 14,000 listings. Over the last 12 months, they have generated US$2.4 million in income. Entertainment was one of the sectors linked to that demand, with Munoz saying that Jamaica is seen as the gold standard for Airbnb in the Caribbean. Anderson noted that the Alpha Institute on South Camp Road, Kingston, offers one of the city's music-related experiences for Airbnb travellers. While that was among the original set of experiences listed, there are currently a number of applications for entertainment-based Airbnb activities to be included, which will have to go through an assessment process before a decision is made.