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Jamaica's tourism recovery driven almost entirely by travel from US

Published:Thursday | June 24, 2021 | 4:49 PM
Tourists enjoying one of Jamaica's many pristine white sand beaches. (FILE photo)

Jamaica's tourism sector is enjoying what is being described by industry insiders as a spectacular turnaround, and the surge is due to sustained bookings from the American marketplace.

Preliminary US arrivals for the month of May 2021 are at 115,500 compared to 148,519 in 2019, down just 22%, and the Jamaica Tourist Board says the numbers for June so far are impressive, and this trend is expected to continue through to at least the end of August. 

"Our bookings are pointing to a very strong summer, and 98% of these travellers are coming from the United States," Donnie Dawson, deputy director of tourism for the Americas told The Gleaner.

"Most major hotels, if not all, have reopened to high occupancy levels. All airlines from the United States are flying into Montego Bay and Kingston with expanded schedules, and new gateways have been opened with Jet Blue now adding a daily service from Newark, NJ to Montego Bay", Dawson added.

On Saturday June 12, there were 43 flights from the United States arriving in Jamaica.

Travel agents and local hoteliers are upbeat and optimistic about the surge in summer travel for Jamaica.

Steve Simmons, a travel executive with Honeymoons, Inc. based in Atlanta, Georgia, is thrilled with his current Jamaica business.

"We do mostly honeymoons and weddings and our company continues to see a demand so strong that the depleted staff we have cannot process all the requests we are receiving for Jamaica," he revealed.

He continued: "Unfortunately, the airlines have doubled their fares to the Caribbean for summer and fall but our clients are undeterred and are determined to move forward with their travel plans," he explained. Simmons sells a number of leading resorts on the island, including Sandals, Couples, Secrets, Iberostar, Royalton, Excellence and RIU.

"As long as Jamaica and the US don't suffer any further spikes with COVID-19, and as long as there are no further tightening of travel restrictions to Jamaica, recovery will be quick. The hunger for Jamaica vacations is ravenous, and if testing requirements for fully vaccinated US travellers are eased, business will go through the roof," Simmons opined.

Mark Hennigan, a travel specialist with Dreamers Travel in Maryland echoed similar sentiments.

"We have seen a huge renewed interest in travel, especially to Jamaica where we have non-stop flights seven days a week. We're seeing a lot of last minute bookings and in speaking with the clients, they tell us they are tired of being cooped up and they now want the beach, they want interaction with the people and they just want to get on with living their lives. We are seeing a surge in weddings into the fall of 2022, and a surge in families travelling together," he stated.

Based on indicators in the marketplace, Jamaica's recovery to pre-pandemic arrival numbers will be at a faster pace than other Caribbean destinations, and the steadfast efforts to take the Jamaica message to travel partners is continuing. 

"The resurgence in travel is welcomed, and we are seeing this mainly from the US market which continues to be Jamaica's main travel source market," Nicola Madden Greig, group director of marketing and sales for several properties including the Holiday Inn Resort in Montego Bay told The Gleaner. 

"The surge has allowed the Holiday Inn to reopen in June and we are seeing good numbers for the summer period," she pointed out.

But, both Madden Greig and Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association's vice president Chris Jarrett agree that the surge in Northcoast leisure travel hasn't occurred yet in Kingston properties. Those hotels are dominated by business travel and are experiencing a slower recovery rate.

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