Jamaica Expects Record Number of Visitors in 2023
Business is booming in Jamaica, with the U.S. market
leading the way to a rebound exceeding pre-COVID levels of visitors arriving by air, and projections that lagging cruise tourism to the island will catch up by 2024, as well.
For travel advisors, the good news includes more flights and hotels availa-ble for clients, although room rates and airfares are likely to continue their steady rise, as well.
Speaking at the Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX) meeting in Septem-ber, Jamaica tourism minister Edmund Bartlett said that total tourism arrivals in 2023 are expected to reach a record 2.9 million, exceeding 2019 arrivals by 5 percent.
About three out of four of those visitors come from the U.S., Bartlett said. Bartlett cited a “historic summer” for tourism in Jamaica and said that if pro-jections hold, tourism earnings “would be some 22 percent over 2019,” as well.
Donovan White, director of tourism for the Jamaica Tourist Board, said that earnings for 2023 are expected to reach $4.2 billion.
“For January through August 2023, destination earnings grew by some U.S. $400 million dollars or 16.2 percent over the same period in 2019 to $2.9 billion,” said White. “So, we are extremely ecstatic that we are growing in the right places and growing steadily.”
Cruise visits to Jamaica have been slower to recover, lagging about 24 percent behind 2019 levels so far in 2023. But Bartlett said that Jamaica “expects to be back to 2019 levels by the end of 2024.”
Strong airlift to Jamaica, particularly from the U.S., is fueling optimism about a strong finish for 2023, Bartlett said. Jamaica will have 140,000 additional inbound seats available from the U.S. this fall, up 19 percent over the same period in 2022 and 18 percent higher than in 2019.
Worldwide, Jamaica will have a total of 1.1 million scheduled airline seats this fall, he said.
Notably, United Airlines is adding service from Denver International Airport to Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay starting on Nov. 4, 2023. Operating weekly on Saturdays, it will be the only nonstop flight from Denver to Jamaica.
American Airlines also has extended service from Dallas and Chicago and added frequencies from Charlotte; United has extended service from Chicago and additional frequency from New Jersey, and Southwest Airlines has additional frequencies from Baltimore and Orlando plus new service from Kansas City to Jamaica.
Jamaica also is set to add 5,000 new rooms to its inventory in the next few years; 2024 openings include the first 500 of a planned 2,000-room Unico Hard Rock hotel in Montego Bay; the Princess Grand Jamaica, set to open in February with 1,000 rooms in Hanover; and the 700-room Riu Palace Aquarelle in Falmouth.
Other notable additions to the Jamaican hotel inventory include the Hidea-way at Royalton Blue Waters in Montego Bay, an adults-only Marriott Autograph Collection all-inclusive resort slated to open this fall with 352 suites, 11 bars, 12, restaurants, and a Royal Spa. For high-end travelers, Bluefield Bay Villas has added four suites to its collection of six private villas overlooking Bluefield beach in Westmoreland parish on Jamaica’s south coast.
First U.S. Flights Coming to Ian Fleming International Airport
American Airlines has announced that it will begin direct flights from Miami to Ian Fleming International Airport in Boscobel, Jamaica, the closest airport to Ocho Rios.
“After more than 45 years of service, we are excited to continue expanding our Jamaica flying with new service to Ocho Rios, becoming the first U.S. airline to offer access to this Caribbean paradise,” said José A. Freig, American Airlines’ vice president for international operations.
The airport began receiving international flights in 2022 after its runways were lengthened, starting with InterCaribbean Airways service to Providenciales, Turks and Caicos.
Operating twice weekly, the American Airlines flights to Ian Fleming will utilize Embraer 175 aircraft, holding up to 76 passengers. Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s tourism minister, said the new flights “greatly enhance the accessibility to the island’s northeast corridor, making it more convenient for travelers to explore the wonders of popular resort areas like Ocho Rios.”
Ian Fleming International Airport is about a 15-minute drive to Ocho Rios; Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, is an hour and a half away.
For now, Sangster remains the main gateway for travelers heading to the tourism areas of Jamaica’s north coast, and clients who arrive at the Montego Bay airport will see some new additions intended to improve the guest experience. The airport’s immigration hall and departure lounge have been expanded, new retail space added, and the Bob Marley (One Love) restaurant is now open.
Clients flying into Sangster, Ian Fleming, or any other Jamaican airport are now required to fill out a new digital entry form, which replaces the paper and online documents used in the past. The new form can be filled out as early as a year in advance or as late as at an airport kiosk, and must be presented to Jamaican immigration officials upon arrival. Tourism officials say the digital document will make for a smoother and quicker entry experience for arriving travelers.
New Festival Debuts in Treasure Beach in November
Jakes Hotel in Treasure Beach on Jamaica’s south coast is set to host the first Treasure Beach Food, Rum & Reggae Festival. The Nov. 10-12 event will include local mixologists, food from south coast farms and guest chef Eric Janson from Black Fish in Cape Cod, and live reggae music perfor-mances.
Island Routes Offers Bespoke Experiences
Tour company Island Routes recently launched its Private & Bespoke Collections for guests who want a personalized experience. Promising hyper-personalized travel with VIP access and expert guides, the Private & Bespoke Collections include activities like power boating in secluded coves, open-fire heritage dinners, and hikes and coffee experiences in the Blue Mountains.